Stuart Brown is the host of the Broadway music radio program "On Broadway" (WRTCFM.COM), which airs live every Sunday night from 5:30-6:30PM EST. He reviews NYC theater as a member of the Outer Critics Circle and reviews CT stage productions as a member of the CT Critics Circle. He is also a member of the Dramtist Guild.
Monday, July 13, 2015
Review of "Shows for Days"
"Welcome to the theatre, to the magic, to the fun
Where painted trees and flowers grow, and laughter rings fortissimo
And treachery's neatly done.
Now you've entered the asylum, this profession unique
actors are children playing hide-and-ego-seek.”
From “Welcome to the Theatre” by Lee Adams
Margo Channing (Lauren Bacall)
sings about the vibrancy, frustrations and love of the theater in the song
“Welcome to the Theatre” from the musical Applause.These sentiments are echoed in Douglas Carter
Beane’s affectionate dramatization of a community theater troupe in Shows for Days, playing at the Mitzi
Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center through August 23rd.Based on his own beginnings as a teenage
actor/playwright, the show also presents his awakening sexual identity as a gay
young man in Redding, Pennsylvania in the early 1970’s.
The play stars the indomitable
Patti Lupone as Irene, the leader of the small group of actors trying to eke
out their art in less than ideal surroundings.Ms. Lupone is superb.She is a
force of nature, not unlike her role as Mama Rose in her Tony Award winning
performance in Gypsy.
The show is narrated by Car, played
by the ebullient Michael Urie.On a bare
stage, with minimal scenery and props, he and the other five actors/actresses
struggle to present their theatrical season, maintain a sense of quality and
dignity and navigate through interpersonal dynamics, including Car’s struggles
with his sexual identity.
Douglas Carter Bean has written, in
essence, a love letter to the theater.Even those of us who might have just tread the boards in a flimsy high
school production can relate to the characters, shenanigans and pathos of the
community theater troupe.Beane’s
inclusion of a narrator gives the audience a necessary tour guide as the show
progresses.He seamlessly comments on
race and sexual orientation without being heavy handed on the subjects.The one minor problem is incorporating both
the theater group’s ever evolving aspirations with Car’s personal
struggles.While each is part of the
overall story, the plot lines occasionally distract from each other.
The cast is marvelous, holding
their own with Ms. Lupone.All have a
role to play within the group.Sometimes
this does give them a one-dimensional disposition.In addition to Michael Urie’s shaded and
nuanced role as Car, Dale Soules as the company’s co-founder Sid, is spunky and
sharp.Her gravely voice adds urgency to
her constant dire proclamations.As an
older lesbian she cautiously maneuvers the terrain of the time period.Lance Coadie Williams as Clive, a gay
African-American local, is proud, passionate and a hot house of conflicting
emotions.Zoe Winters as Maria is a bit
mousey but, overall, determined.Jordan
Dean as Damian is the hardest character to grasp.Dean gives him a multi-layered sheen,
becoming almost a chameleon in his interactions with the other cast members.
Director Jerry Zaks makes sure
Patti Lupone is front and center when she is onstage.He gives her oversized personality room to
scheme, sweet-talk and meddle.Zak
successfully maneuvers Michael Urie’s narrator as the unifying force of the
play.He skillfully and proficiently
shepherds the actors around the small performance space as well as their
entrances and exits in the three-sided theater.
Days, a theatrical valentine, playing at the Mitzi Newhouse
Theater at Lincoln Center through August 23rd.