Sunday, April 17, 2011

New York, April 2011 - Day Three, "The Other Place" & "Catch Me If You Can"

“The Other Place”
Dr. Juliana Smithdon has a brilliant mind. Perhaps even a beautiful one. But that’s where the beauty ends, because Juliana (played by the sort-of adorable Laurie Metcalfe), a world-class medical researcher, is not necessarily fun to be around. She’s short-tempered, angry, mean even. But above all, she is deeply, deeply wounded. But her pain can’t kill her brilliance and wit. “Are you flirting with suicidal thoughts?” her husband asks her. “I’m dating them, actually,” she responds. “But they won’t put out.”

When you finally discover the source of the wound – or wounds, I should say, for she was hit from two directions – you’re willing to forgive her acid tongue. For with her brain under attack from within, Juliana believes she may not be able to count on her wits for long. Her brilliance may slip from her control and she wants to use it for as long as she has it.

Metcalfe gives a stunning performance, falling apart right before our eyes in the tragic climax. And she does it against a set that echoes the fragmentation going on onstage – of minds and families and dreams.

“Mamma Mia!” it’s not. But “The Other Place” is well-constructed, funny, tragic, sharply-directed and worth your time – if you don’t mind a few tears.

“Catch Me If You Can”
“Catch Me If You Can” is as much a con as its anti-hero, Frank Abagnale, Jr. is. It has most of the trappings of a musical -- but ultimately it can’t pull them together into anything authentic. Thank god for Norbert Leo Butz – his Carl Hanratty (the role played by Tom Hanks in the movie) – is alone worth the price of admission. Without him, I don’t think I would have stayed engaged long enough to notice that Aaron Tveit still has a terrific voice and charming stage presence, or that some of the songs were funny enough, or that the show broke the fourth wall in some interesting ways.

I think one reason I felt conned by the show was that the show took too long to get rolling. My suggestion to the producers? Put “Don’t Break the Rules” earlier in the show. It’s a great number. And if you put it right after we meet Frank, it sets up the motivations behind the epic battle of wits between the two, which is the most fascinating part of the story, but often gets lost among the side plots.

“Catch Me If You Can” is not a bad show, it’s just not very good. As I said, it’s a con, but an entertaining enough con that a fair number of showgoers will fall for it and never be the wiser.

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