Pick a Rescue

This article was meant to discuss picaresque drama; I was going to show that, structurally, Pericles and Little Me are the same play. But pleasure in theatergoing always gets pride of place, and the element both shows share most strongly is that there's really not much pleasure in sitting through them. Pericles suffers from mixed intentions: Brian Kulick's direction seems to aim for the bare-stage simplicity of village storytelling, while Mark Wendland's huge, multilevel set suggests a giant mechanized image for the destiny that kicks the hapless hero from port to port. Periodically, chunks of this structure get dismantled and wheeled about on casters. It's nice to see casters that work at the Public— the ones in the casting office seem to have lost their (ball) bearings. Jay Goede, an amiably handsome youngster, is as bland a Pericles as you can imagine, with all the inner conviction of a shirt ad. The actors around him are alternately so miscast or so misdirected that even the most gifted come off like duffers. Most of the speaking is acceptable (the Gower, ironically, is worst of the lot in voice and metrics) and the cast inevitably brings off a few strong moments, but the muddle onstage renders any view of the play unreadable— and I don't mean in the poststructuralist sense.

Little Me is all about structure— in the cantilevered sense of what holds up a strapless evening gown. Belle Poitrine, naively bringing death as she lurches from lecher to lecher, trying to keep their grabby hands off, is a coarse parody of the usual picaresque innocent, in Neil Simon's crudely carpentered stage version of Patrick Dennis's crass book. Back in 1963, it worked for the critics (including college-age little me) because of Sid Caesar, the lively Coleman-Leigh score, Bob Fosse's spiffy dances, and quality items of a sort one used to take for granted in Broadway musicals, like a lovable supporting cast and stylishly bright-colored designs.

Fiona Walsh, Patrick Fitzgerald, and Daniel Gerroll in The Shaughraun: melodrama as civilization
Carol Rosegg
Fiona Walsh, Patrick Fitzgerald, and Daniel Gerroll in The Shaughraun: melodrama as civilization

Details

The Shaughraun (The Vagabond)
By Dion Boucicault
Irish Repertory Theatre
132 West 22nd Street
727-2737

Pericles, Prince of Tyre
By William Shakespeare
Joseph Papp Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street
239-6200

Little Me
By Neil Simon
Songs by Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh
Roundabout Theatre
Broadway at 45th Street
719-1300

Well, we've changed all that, and not for the better. Rob Marshall's revival of Little Me is unwatchably and unlistenably up to date. David Gallo's big white ashtray of a set, repeatedly drenched in yucky pink light by Kenneth Posner, suggests a sweet 16 party in hell, while David Chase's unsympathetically blatting band is about competent to play for one. Martin Short, cast as all the men in Belle's life, once or twice grasps a character firmly enough to give the show some humanity, but Marshall's staging is always there to drag it back down by underlining the cheap jokes that we got 10 minutes earlier. Faith Prince, earnest and energetic, lacks the magic to rise out of this quagmire. I can't discuss topics like choreography or sound design; libel laws aside, I don't have enough space to be that mean.

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