I do not watch television. I have never seen an episode of Seinfeld, co-created by Larry David, or Larry David: Curb Your Enthusiasm. However, I did see on Broadway Fish in the Dark. written and starring Larry David, at the Cort Theatre. It is about two brothers (Larry David and Ben Shenkman), whose father is in a hospital. His dying wish is for his wife (Jayne Houdyshell) to live with one of them. For two hours, we watch a play, that might entertain a television audience. A Broadway audience deserves better. The silly plot is not worth describing. Larry David makes his Broadway debut in this play, but has little charisma, except to his television fans, who have given this play an enormous advance sale of 13.5 million dollars. David spends most of his time on stage with his hands in his pockets. The audience laughs at every weak joke. Fortunately, the rest of the cast are professional theatre actors, and perform well, under the direction of Anna D. Shapiro. I now know why I do not watch television.
Director Scott Ellis and choreographer Warren Carlyle have created a delightful revival of On the Twentieth Century, book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, music by Cy Coleman, at the American Airlines Theatre. When the four superb porters, Rick Faugno, Richard Riaz Yoder, Phillip Attmore and Drew King, rush down two aisles to step on the stage and sing and tap dance brilliantly, one knows that one is in for an entertaining night on Broadway. The action takes place in 1932 on the train of the title from Chicago to New York. A theatre producer (Peter Gallagher) is trying to persuade a movie star (Kristin Chenoweth) to appear in his next production. They are simply wonderful, and extremely funny. The supporting cast, especially, Mark Linn-Baker, Matt McGrath and Mary Louise Wilson are marvelous, but the scene stealer is Andy Karl playing a film star lover of Chenoweth. He is hilarious. David Rockwell for the set design and William Ivey Long for the costume design also deserve our applause. It is certainly one of the best musicals of the season, and I feel am certain that it will gather many Tony nominations.
Many Americans are fascinated by British Royalty. For that reason, many will rush to see The Audience, by Peter Morgan, at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, starring the esteemed English actress Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II. As a matter of fact, the Queen meets with her Prime Minister briefly once a week to be informed of what is happening in Parliament and the world. The content of these meeting is private and secret. The playwright has imagined conversations with eight of her Prime Ministers. This is fictitious nonsense. The actors are quite good, directed by Stephen Daltry, and include fine impersonations by Dakin Matthews as Winston Churchill and Richard McCabe as Harold Wilson. There are other impersonations, that are not only ridiculous, but also repulsive, as is the one of Margaret Thatcher by Judith Ivey. The purported play is dull, and the only parts of interest are the on stage costume changes, which results in a magnificent coronation scene at the end of Act I, and the running across the stage of two adorable dogs, twice in the second act. Mirren is superb playing the Queen, and is a joy to watch.
Off-Broadway, The Mystery of Love and Sex, by Bathsheba Doran, directed by Sam Gold, at the Mitzi Newhouse Theatre, is an overlong play about a black, Baptist young man (Mamoudou Athie) and a young Jewish girl (Gayle Rankin), who have been best friends since the age of nine. Now they are college roommates, and her parents (Tony Shalhoub and Diane Lane) are visiting them. What follows through two acts, taking place five years apart, is revelations of sexual secrets, that are mainly unbelievable and uninteresting. The four never stop talking about racism, gay sexual activity, lack of sexual activity, divorce (the parents), nudity for the two young people, and, believe or not, the mother is joining the Peace Corp.
I attended a press event at The British Residence to photograph the cast of Wolf Hall: Parts 1 & 2, based on the novels by Dame Hilary Mantel, and directed by Jeremy Herrin, which opens at the a Winter Garden Theatre, on April 9. I eagerly await this play, which features an enormous cast of brilliant English actors.
William Ivey Long invited my wife Xiuli and me to toast Willa Kim, at his wonderful pub & restaurant Schoolbred, 197 Second Avenue. Among the many guests celebrating Willa, who will be 98-years-young in June, were Cady Huffman, Susan Hilferty, Tony and Gen Walton. We were served drinks galore and delicious hors d'oeuvres. It was a festive occasion.
We attended a wonderful reception for Italian personality and culinary master Gianaluca Mech and his Dieta Tisanoreica, a US product launch of his penne and fusilli at a tasting and cocktail reception at the Hudson Terrace, 25 West 51st St. He is a charming person, and his pasta is delicious. His products will be very successful in the United States.
Film Society Lincoln Center and MoMA presented press screenings for New Directors/New Films March 18-29. Dog Lady, by Laura Citarella and Veronica Llinas, Argentina, 2015, is almost a silent film, about a middle-aged, overweight lady (Llinas), who lives in a field outside Buenos Aires, with a pack of dogs. She sleeps under a waterproof cover in her clothes on a mattress, stroking her dogs. She has all types of plastic containers and bowls with water to wash herself and allow the dogs to drink. We watch her walk to a spring for the water, and wander around the fields. She also steal candles from a church, and enters a house to steal again, while the owner is talking on the telephone. We see her urinate in the fields, and have sex with an elderly man, who talks to her about fishing. This goes on through four seasons of a year. It is a weird, strange film, and I do not understand the reason for it, nor what audience will be attracted to seeing it.
Fort Buchanan, by Benjamin Crotty, France, 2014, is another strange film, about a group of young people married to soldiers, who are on assignment in Djibouti. As their spouses are away, they want to have sexual activity with whoever is available. The main actors are a couple of men. One is a soldier, and the other is his lover. The soldier does not want to be with him any longer. It is a disjointed film, which is difficult to follow, as it is impossible to know who is doing what to whom. Some of the actors are attractive, but it is a dull film, and certainly not erotic.
Line of Credit, by Salome Alexi, Georgia, 2014, is about is about a middle-aged woman, who owns a house, and a tiny cafe underneath the house in Tbilisi. She takes out loan after loan to maintain her living standards. She pawns her mother's jewelry to celebrate the mother's birthday. Whenever she receives a loan, she buys an expensive dress. Her husband and son are no help, and it is a depressing look at a woman, who knows nothing about how to handle her money. It ends in tragedy, when she takes out a mortgage on her house, reminiscent of the recent housing crisis in the United States. A closing note on the screen states that 14% of the population have lost their homes in the country. The film is intelligent and realistic.
Mercuriales, by Virgil Vernier, France, 2014, is about two young girls who work in a twin tower high rise. They live rather boring lives, in dull jobs, with no particular aims in life. They drink, smoke, take drugs and pick up uninteresting men. One scene shows them taking a bath together, and then they proceed to urinate standing up in the bathtub. This fascination with women urinating in French films is rather infantile. I have absolutely no idea what the director wanted to show us in this film.
The Great Man, by Sarah Leonor, France, 2014, has a story to tell. Two illegal aliens are in the French Foreign Legion in Afghanistan. One is wounded and saved by the other.They return to France, where conditions are hard. When the one, who had saved the wounded one, dies in an accident, the other feels the obligation to save his young son. It is a pessimistic view of life for illegal aliens in France. It is a well acted, emotional film.
The Tribe, by Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, Ukraine, 2014, is a silent film, since it is about deaf, mute teenagers in a decrepit boarding school. The older boys brutalize the newcomers, and the older girls engage in prostitution. The scenes are graphic, and practically pornographic. The sexual activity leaves nothing to the imagianation. The violence is horrific in this grim, depressing film. There is an extended scene, where a girl goes for an illegal abortion. It is so realistic, that it is painful to watch. Again, we see a miserable view of life, without any hope for these young people.
Listen to Me Marlon, by Stevan Riley,, USA, 2014, is a documentary about Marlon Brando, based on the discovery of audio tapes, which he made giving his opinions on films he made and personalities that he knew. There are numerous film clips and interviews that he gave. There really is not much that is new. He has been covered so completely as one of the finest movie stars of the twentieth century.
Goodnight Mommy, by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz, Austria, 2014, is a horror movie, about two young boys, who believe the woman claiming to be their mother is an imposter. When she is asleep, they tie her to the bed, and torture her. They end the film, burning her alive. It is an unpleasant film, and excruciating to watch. The one redeeming feature is that the photography is good.
Los Hongos, by Oscar Ruiz Navia, Colombia, 2014, is about two young high school boys, who are obsessed with painting walls on the streets of Cali. As they do it without permission, they have trouble with the law. There is a lot of hip-hop music, which is loud and irritating. The two leads think they have the talent to become rappers, which is music I do not enjoy. The film focuses on the wasted youth of the city. One cannot think about how they will be when they become adults.
Entertainment, by Rick Alverson, USA, 2014, in spite of the title is not entertaining. A comedian (Gregg Turkington better known as Neil Hamburger) and a mime (Tim Heidecker) are appearing in a jail in the Mojave desert. Their routines are ghastly. We then are forced to see them perform in other half empty venues. The mime pretends to masturbate and then defecate in his hat, which he then throws at an audience member. It is not clever or funny. The comedian makes unintelligible sounds in his routine, and begins a tirade against a female heckler. She attacks him afterwards. The film reaches its lowest point, when the comedian walks into a female toilet, where a young girl is giving birth. The next shot is of the comedian sitting with the bloody fetus in his arms. Remember you have been warned if you waste your time and money seeing this feature.