Saturday, April 25, 2009

New York, Spring 2009 -- Day Ten "Offices" "Sleepwalk With Me" "9 to 5"

Move along, nothing to see here. An interesting, talented cast, with taut direction from Neil Pepe, on a great set by Riccardo Hernandez... performing what feels like a set of sketches or notes for a larger work. I love the Coen Brothers (Ethan [that's him in the picture] wrote this collection of three short plays that all take place in bland offices), but despite some good lines and some funny physical business, this isn't a play, it's a workshop.

"Sleepwalk With Me"
Since Mike Birbiglia, the writer and performer of this monologue/stand-up act confesses in the show that he subscribes to a Google alert that lets him know when he's mentioned in a blog, I'm going to assume he's reading this, so I'll address the rest of this post to him:


At one time I had some sleep disturbance issues, and before I saw the show I had this fantasy of hanging out afterward to meet you and share what-I-did-while-I-thought-I-was-asleep stories. But dude, I got nothin' on you. Sure, our stories have some similar aspects -- raised Catholic, ADD, insomnia, spending time in a relationship that we weren't being totally honest about, working as stand-ups...there may be a few more. But there were important differences, too. First, you took the sleepwalking shit to a whole new level. Second, you're actually a good standup -- I sucked. Not so much I didn't get paid, but enough that choosing a different career was a wise choice. So I didn't stay after. (But if you want to hear my semi-hilarious stories about sleep issues that I once considered doing a monologue on, send me a mail. We'll talk. I also want to hear your theory on bisexuality to which you referred but never expanded on.)

In the meantime, rest assured that I think your show is terrific. Funny, insightful, great timing, brilliant call-backs. I even became a Facebook fan. And if I took the effort to do that, well...

Anyway, I'll tell my New York friends -- and all eight readers of this blog -- that "Sleepwalk With Me" represents the best laugh-per-dollar ratio of any show we've seen in New York this trip."

Now, so I'm not lying to Mike: "Sleepwalk With Me" represents the best laugh-per-dollar ratio of any show we've seen in New York this trip. Go see it.

"9 to 5"
If you have fond memories of the 1980 film and are looking for a mostly faithful staged recreation of the film, you'll love the new show opening this week at the Marquis Theater. On the other hand, if you're hoping for a reinvention of the Dolly Parton-Lily Tomlin-Jane Fonda reeler, look elsewhere, as there is very little that is fresh about this effort. Oh, a few new lines have been added and the Lily Tomlin character gets a love interest (which I don't believe happened in the movie -- it was so long ago), but that's about it.

Not that that's so awful. "9 to 5" is a highly-entertaining -- if ridiculously implausible -- story, filled with outsize characters and farcical action. In fact, it's the elements of farce that give "9 to 5" the musical its biggest boost. The physical action -- especially the kidnapping of villain CEO Franklin Hart -- is perfect for the stage. All this -- the solid foundation of a good story and lovable (and hateable) characters -- combined with top-notch work in staging and lighting, plus a first-rate troupe of choristers make "9 to 5" a crowd-pleaser.

Unfortunately, for this member of the crowd, the production never really found its feet. Allison Janney (in the Lily Tomlin role), much as I love her acting, doesn't seem comfortable in the part yet. Her voice, while pleasing and in pitch, simply isn't powerful enough for a Broadway house. There's no Susan Boyle moment here. The other key roles are strong, but the cast doesn't feel like a true ensemble yet.

That said, the audience loved the show (and I loved being able to say "hello" to John Cleese, one of my heroes, who was sitting behind me), and it should have a decent run, especially with female audiences, who will no doubt appreciate the "womyn-power" theme. I'm guessing the mostly male crowd of critics will be a tad less kind.

No comments: