April 2011 Archives

Born Yesterday: Summarized

I've never seen the movie version of Born Yesterday or watched a production.  It took a good ten minutes until I was absolutely positive that yes, I'd read the play back in a History of Comedy class.  I vaguely remembered thinking the play felt dated, the ditz blonde character seemed cliche and unremarkable, and the whole show seemed incredibly unripe for even a Roundabout revival.

The plot:
Robert Sean Leonard enters a fancy hotel room and has a nice conversation with a waitress and leaves.  We have no idea who he is or why he's inside this hotel room that's not his.

Then Jim Belushi enters with his wife, played kind of like a dumber Kristen Schaal by hilarious Broadway newcomer Nina Arianda.  Also, she drinks so much vodka, you'd think that they were actually using water in the prop bottle!  Jim Belushi establishes over and over how he's incredibly rich from something scrapmetaling-related, but is also probably the millionaire with the least manners ever (just in case you should accidentally like his character.  Robert Sean Leonard enters, starts to interview Jim Belushi, and leaves partway through for Plot Necessity.

Jim Belushi and his advisor, The Evil Politician from Angels In America (in a random encore performance as just that), invite over an Old Senator to bribe into passing the vaguest law imaginable.  Don't worry if you have trouble with the law details, because all that matters is that it's a Very Evil Law.  Nina Arianda says lots of ditzy funny one liners and Jim Belushi and Evil Politician realize that she needs to be educated to act smarter because--PLOT TWIST--she actually owns most of the company on paper.  So they decide to hire Wilson from House to do it, which to me sounds like a great solution to most things in life.  Robert Sean Leonard, up till now characterized as a very intelligent very moral hardworking reporter, suddenly has no obligations in his life at all and decides to educate Nina Arianda.  We see that happen and Nina Arianda becomes book-smart but one-liner-dumb.  Robert Sean Leonard talks about how much he's in love with Nina Arianda, because you wouldn't really be able to tell from Acting or anything else that isn't Pure Assumption.  

Then Nina finds out about the terrible Evil Law and wants to leave Jim Belushi.  Jim Belushi hits her, just in case you weren't sure he was the bad guy yet.  Then she threatens that she actually owns most of the company and rams it down the audience's throat that they are following a crappy version of Democracy before leaving with Robert Sean Leonard.

What makes this revival work is Nina Arianda, who I'm now wishing I saw in Venus in Fur.  The girl knows how to carry a scene, especially considering that Robert Sean Leonard's character is barely given anything to do (and sadly, also doesn't do much with lack of anything to do).  The character could have been a ditz that sort of goes through a sudden unbelievable turnaround.  Director Doug Hughes and Arianda turn the character of Billie Dawn into a girl who is less dumb and more a self-indulgent alcoholic because of how unhappy she is with Belushi's character, and it really fills the character (and the whole play) out.

I'm mildly disappointed that Act 3 wasn't trimmed down heavily, particularly considering that the intermission was placed between Acts 1 and 2.  Act 3 mostly consists of Arianda and Leonard telling Belushi all about democracy and how America should be, Evil Politician nodding his head mornfully for the entire act as he agrees with everything she has to say, and 15 too-many minutes to an ending that you predicted in Act 1.  

Why can we cut the fat from Shakespeare, but not something first performed in 1946?

Born Yesterday isn't a must-see, but it's entertaining and a fun night in theatre.  Nina Arianda makes this show.  Catch her before she inevitably gets called away to Hollywood and we lose another wonderful theatre performer.  

Isn't that right, Wilson?  Now go convince Hugh Laurie to be Henry Higgins.
The 2011 West Village Musical Theatre Festival (AEA Individual Showcase Code pending) is now accepting submissions from ACTORS and SINGERS to be a part of the festival this coming June.  We are especially seeking MALE SINGERS of all age ranges.
Please submit a current headshot as a JPG and a current resume as a DOC or PDF to pmw@vocalstudios.com.  Please submit a demo reel as an MP3 if you have one available.
Auditions are by invitation only and will take place the week of May 2nd.  Please prepare two contrasting songs of 16 bars each and one monologue.  Actors will be contacted to set up an appointment.  AEA and non-AEA actors welcome.
Tech, dress, and performance dates are June 6-12, 2011, and will take place at The 13th Street Repertory Theatre.  Performances are June 8-12th.  Rehearsals will begin immediately.
The annual West Village Musical Theatre Festival is one of the most unique musical theatre festivals of its kind, garnering lots of press and industry attention and Off Broadway production for some of its presentations from last year. Eighteen teams of emerging professional composers, book writers, lyricists, and directors will produce brand new 10-15 minute musical theatre pieces in three separate series.
Please visit www.wvmtf.com for more information.

Ghetto Klown, and Why I'm Silent Lately

So I've been spending a lot of time lately writing my own actual musicals, one of which will be featured in a festival this summer but that's another post.  I'll be reviewing some upcoming/recent shows in non-Abridgement format... Abridging takes a surprising amount of time, and in a month that featured a 40 hour-long songwriting session (with a 4 hour break to sleep somewhere in there), time isn't a luxury lately.  I'm re-learning how I write, how I get past writer's block, and how I deal with the looming fear of failure on large but also miniscule levels.

Which actually made John Leguizamo's "Ghetto Klown" more relatable to me than Sexoholix, the last one-man-show of his I saw.  Part of it is because I'm a writer, but part of it is probably because I'm... what's the word... Very White. 

Much like an August Wilson play, seeing a John Leguizamo show sometimes makes me feel proud of myself about how "diverse" my "tastes" supposedly "are", inclusive of not just the Great Whitebread Way but a multi-ethnic rainbow of theatre.  That said, seeing a show about a Latino man's roots often makes me feel partially like the outsider Leguizamo continually prides himself as being.  In other words with a show like Leguizamo's I'm enjoying it, I'm appreciating once more that We Are All The Same, but I'm going to miss a nuance here or a Spanish joke there (at no fault of the performer or writing). 

I had less of this mildly-alienating experience with Ghetto Klown because its Hollywood vs. Success subject matter means it's slightly more sanitized, which has it's advantages and tradeoffs.  On one hand his story of how he got to where he is tonight brings us on occasional detours through stories about his interactions with Patrick Swayze, Al Pacino and Baz Luhrman, which distract us overall from the story of an artist trying to figure out what to do to with insecurities, writer's frustration, life.  On the other hand, if I want to hear behind-the-scenes tell-alls from somebody, it's Johnny Legs.  He pulls no punches on others or himself, and by the end of the show you feel you've come to know the man more deeply than you know many of your own friends.  

It's not a perfect show by any means: it's often far less personal than his previous work and the ending of the show and the tying off of loose ends felt a bit sloppy to me.  Act one was wonderful, but I'd love to see a rewrite of the second act of Act Two because once he meets his wife, something in the story starts to lose it's place.  
Still, it's a well-told and entertaining behind-the-scenes story of a man-child who's had run-ins with his friends, past lovers, family, even his current wife, and has essentially learned to blame himself for his shortcomings through his own one-man shows.  And this spoke to me.

On a personal note, Leguizamo gave an interesting answer to my always-ready question of how he deals with writer's block:
"I tricked myself into writing this show because I didn't want to.  I was giving talks at colleges and had to prepare small bits and pieces.  After enough talks i'd basically written a first draft of the show."

Lucky bastard.


Born Yesterday: Summarized
I've never seen the movie version of Born Yesterday or watched a production.  It took a good ten minutes until…
Casting Notice for the festival my musical is in this June
THE 2011 WEST VILLAGE MUSICAL THEATRE FESTIVAL The 2011 West Village Musical Theatre Festival (AEA Individual Showcase Code pending) is now…
Ghetto Klown, and Why I'm Silent Lately
So I've been spending a lot of time lately writing my own actual musicals, one of which will be featured…



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