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12/28/12

Out You Go 2012 - 5 Off-Broadway Shows That Need Broadway Runs ASAP


Calling all potential producers and investors...stop trying to make fetch Scandalous happen or making up fake multi-million dollar investors a la Rebecca. Instead, re-focus your attention and pool your thousands for some of the following off-Broadway shows that brought it like no other to be some of my favorite shows this year...and naturally, will {Clybourne Park, Peter and the Starcatcher, Venus In Fur and Other Desert Cities} themselves to all the Tony awards if when they have their much-deserved Broadway runs.

Cock, The Duke

I know this show was more intimate and visceral then a typical Broadway show (observations mind you, not criticisms), but so well-rendered this show was, I don't know why a Broadway run hasn't been announced yet. The business plan is simple - reunite the cast, bring it to the Circle in the Square theater (too late) some place and stage it in the round. That's it; thoughts over. And the funny thing is, this show looked like it cost, like, $100 and a pot of coffee to run. The tight script and swift direction combine to make some effortless, dramatic moments in a show that could have fallen flat with its minimalistic nature. But leave it to the show with the unrepeatable title to achieve theatrical brilliance that most shows can only dream of.

The Whale, Playwrights Horizons Peter Jay Sharp Theater

I damn-near watched the entirety of The Whale - which follows Charlie, a gay, 600-pound widower as he strives to connect with his estranged daughter as he is on the verge of death - through splayed fingers. I mean that in the greatest way possible; it was difficult to watch, and yet, I couldn't look away even if I wanted to. A show like The Whale reminds me why I love the theater - when Charlie is the flawed protagonist and heart of the show, all you can do is prepare to have the rug pulled from right underneath you as you venture into unfamiliar territory. I loved this show not just for the complexity of its characters or the emotional punches it killed me with, but also because it was something that I have never seen before. Add to that some terrific performances, Shuler Hensley, in particular, was pitch-perfect as he instinctively knew just what to do with Charlie. Also, Cory Michael Smith, as a Mormon missionary at a crossroads in life who becomes intertwined with Charlie, was spot-on and particularly hilarious when he gets backed into a corner by Charlie's aggressive daughter.

Murder Ballad, MTC's The Studio at Stage II

With another year of mediocre-ish musicals outweighing the good ones, thank the powers that be we have this rock opera to add to the latter list. I just about loved it all and feel like they should stage it like the last Broadway revival of La Cage Aux Foilles, with the cabaret-like cocktail seating. Watching the very appealing cast seductively move about a bar makes for great entertainment on any night, but the superb score takes it to where the show needs to go. I got one of my Christmas wishes with the cast recording in the works, which I plan to have on loop for a good month or three. Just being a spectator made me feel dirty, slightly-aroused and even a little evil by sheer association...how often does that happen after a show?

Disgraced, Lincoln Center's Claire Tow Theater

Disgraced achieved the distinction that I can only ascribe to a few elite shows, like Tony Kushner's Intelligent Homosexuals Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to Scriptures (by the way, I know I have been blogging theater for to long that I know that show's name by heart). It's a show so rich, complex, thought-out and impeccably done that I can't really go into further detail out of fear of doing it an injustice. I know it's about a successful Muslim litigator dealing with relationships, racism and false pretenses in a post-9/11 world. But that is, like, one of 17 things the show handles aplomb. It just has so much going for it and so many thought-provoking ideas and dialogue, that I can't even...I really can't even **goes into a corner and cries at Disgraced' utter perfection**.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Lincoln Center's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater

This unique Anton Chekov-inspired show, set in Bucks county and revolving around a brother/adopted sister settling in on the epiphany that their lives suck just as their bread-winning actress sister and lover come for a visit, is just. pure. joy. I'm IN LOVE with this laugh-a-minute play simultaneously paying respect to (and frequently referencing) classic Chekov stories and characters {Three SistersUncle VanyaThe Cherry Orchard and The Seagull}, while also combining them to make for one compelling comedy. The brilliance of the show is that you don't really need to have an familiarity with Chekov's work to enjoy it; it's lends itself more to a 'clever' label as opposed to 'too smart for its own good' or 'exclusive'. It is also not afraid to play with the boundaries of reality, going for (and executing flawlessly) over-the-top actor shenanigans and even psychic predilections and voodoo dolls.

I concur Kristine. **Wipes Drool Away**
Throw in one of the best ensembles of the year to make an already amazing show even better. David Hyde Pearce plays Vanya, openly gay and harboring a secret penchant for writing, with a dry sense of humor and subtlety. With all the histrionics going around him, it is his composure that grounds the show and it's one hell of a cathartic moment when his seams finally unravel. Kristine Nielson was really impressive, side-stepping Sonia's frustrated, whiny tendencies for pathos, endearment and a knack for sly comedy. Her phone conversation in the second act from a potential suitor was an acting master class unfolding that managed to be heart-warming and funny. Sigourney Weaver's Masha is a high-camp and narcissistic actress...and Weaver churns out one hilarious performance, from start to finish. And finally, Spike, Masha's much younger lover, is a dim-witted, but gorgeous specimen that even with all the acting talent around him, Billy Magnussen manages to chew some scenery himself simply for embracing Spike's crazy, outlandish qualities and for his...well, 'other assets'. He prances around in a Prince Charming costume, tights and all, if not just his underwear - I repeat, just his underwear - complete with abs galore and stretching and thrusting and pushups and moisture and...let's just say that was an experience within the experience. Especially when you are in the front row. Approval granted. And I apologize to the custodian that had to mop up my seat after the show.


Photo Credit: The Publicity Office via BigStory (AP)
Photo Credit: MaleCelebNews.com

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