Sunday, July 26, 2015

Off-Broadway Theater Review: Shows for Days

Patti LuPone and Michael Urie. Photo: Joan Marcus
If You’re Not a Theater Insider, You Might Feel Left Out
By Lauren Yarger
It’s got star power (Broadway diva Patti LuPone and Off-Broadway darling Michael Urie). It’s even got heavy weights on the design team like Costume genius William Ivey Long and Lighting Designer Natasha Katz. But just like the community theater it depicts, Shows for Days doesn’t quite live up to what it could be.

The play is Douglas Carter Beane’s fond remembrance of his beginnings in the theater, as The Prometheus, a community theater in Reading, PA. His alter ego (and the play’s narrator, Car (Urie), introduces his fellow thespians, led by the overbearing director, producer, actress Irene (LuPone). There is Clive (Lance Coadie Williams ), the afro-wearing homosexual who keeps his relationship with a closeted Republican under wraps, Marie (Zoë Winters), the main actress with lots of needs, Damien (Jordan Dean) who helps Car discover his sexual orientation with a backstage encounter,  and Sid, the very masculine, blunt-talking  stage manager (Dale Soules) who is  the glue that holds the troupe together. Long dresses them all in the horrible late 1960s fashion styles popular when the action is taking place (despite the fact that Beatty’s backstage set reminds us that such drama could be taking place in any theater today).

LuPone is skilled in keeping Irene from being too over-the-top, despite the fact that she herself is known for not being too  unlike force-of-nature Irene. Just days earlier, LuPone had made headlines by snatching away the phone of an audience member who had been using it during the performance. HUGE flyers are inserted in the programs reminding patrons to turn their cell phones off in the hopes that the stars’ wrath would not be summoned. And despite LuPone’s  additional, humorous recorded curtain speech reminding us to turn them off, a woman two seats away from me rummaged through her bag to find her ringing phone in the middle of Act One….. It wouldn’t have been out of character for Irene to throw her out….

But a bigger force than Irene threatens the theater group – the wrecking ball, and she is forced to come up with a plan, including blackmailing Clive and putting Sid in a dress to save the theater (Soules’ appealing performance is one of the highlights of the production).

Urie is as engaging as ever, having enchanted in Off-Broadway’s Buyer and Cellar. He’s able to get laughs, with a fall or with a look, but there just isn’t enough for him to do here and the talent which might have brought some excitement to this show appears almost reined in by Director Jerry Zaks.

Beane’s script takes a turn into the melodramatic and drags on too long, but even before the two hours and 10 minutes with intermission was over, I was wondering whether someone not connected with the theater would remain interested in a personal memoir that doesn’t contain much action. Shows for Days doesn’t come close to being the homage to the theater that Moss Hart’s Act One is, or the anyone-can-enjoy comedy of a Noises Off., for example.

Sort of like community theater. You hope they’ll pull it off, but usually are left wanted more.
Shows for Days plays through Aug. 23 at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre at Lincoln Center. 150 West 65th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 8 pm; Wednesday and Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets $77 - $87lct.org/shows/shows-days800-432-7250.

No comments:

TheWritePros.com

TheWritePros.com
Create A Buzz About Your Book
Custom Search
Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

Search

Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

All Posts on this Blog