By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
The Roundabout just had a sold-out hit with The Women, but the enormous overhead must have made Clare Booth's profits very luce. In fact, there were so many wenches running around that stage, it finally proved that the chick from Welcome to the Dollhouse is not the same person as the girl from the Pepsi commercial. So now they've gone minimal and brought home the (Kevin) Baconwith An Almost Holy Picture, a one-man show, set in a patch of dirt, about a soul-searching ex-minister with a daughter who's born covered with hair. Sound interesting? Maybe, but it's mostly heavy-handed, thanks to unearned references to The Glass Menagerieand lines like "Who am I but the man in the cloth, running, silent, naked, alone in the dark?" Clearly this guy's not an ex-priest at all, he's a former short-story writer. Run silent and naked to something less pretentious.
Taking the opposite trajectory, the legendary Elaine Stritchhas run (but not silent and naked) to a larger, splashier theater, and that's good news because I hear she spearheaded all sorts of fun havoc at the Public. My friends in low places say that a whole new dressing room was built for the golden girl, closer to the stage. ("Part of it is because we were under construction," explains a press rep.) But since there wasn't a bathroom anywhere close bythat construction thing againStritch became adept at relieving herself into a trash can! (What a pisser.) Equally memorably, the darling diva reportedly came in one day with a batch of old-looking clothes and announced, "Here, dry-clean these. It's in my contract." ("That one I didn't hear," says the press rep.) They probably jumped to it rather than attend to the other task at handemptying the trash can.
Sadly, Broadway now isthe wee-wee troughnot because of Urinetown, but because it's the exclusive home of revivals of revivals, masturbatory solo sessions, and '70s schlock pastiches. (Move aside, ABBA loversBilly Joel's a-coming.) At least One Mo' Timehas only been Off-Broadway before, and judging from a press sampling offered over collard greens last week, the '70s show about the cakewalking '20s has got the '02 hot sauce. I asked creator-director-star Vernel Bagnerisif he's the only original cast member still in the thing. "Yes," he said. "The ingenue is not really ingenue material anymore, I hate to say. But luckily, I named my character Papa Du, not SonDu." (Or Du Du.) After seven more bites of peach cobbler, I told Bagneris I missed out on the original production, though I was certainly around back then. "So was I!" he exclaimed, jubilantly.
In other everything-old-is-new-again Broadway gossip, the columnists have reported that Steven Webermay replace Matthew Broderickin The Producers, and I hear everyone from TV star Malcolm Gets to complete unknowns tried out for the job. But excuse me, not long ago, Roger Bartwho plays Carmen Giawas announced by Mel Brooksas having next dibs on the role. I'd be outscreeching Stritch over having been denied my schlemiel-ticket, but I hear Bart's OK about it.
Meanwhile, Broderick and co-star Nathan Laneco-hosted the AmFAR "Seasons of Hope" gala at Cipriani and were adorable, with jokes about whether Matthew's marriage to Sarah Jessica Parkeris pure Scientology Du Du. (They decided it's not.) The evening's eclectic entertainment also included Barry Manilowsaying, "New York's the greatest city in the world!" (wait, didn't he move to L.A.?), and Sheryl Lee Ralphdoing a rousing Thoroughly Modern Millie tune called "Only in New York." Cindy Adamsshould sue.Only at Cipriani did I learn that Alicia Keys's people turned down a chance for her to duet with Marc Anthonyat the Super Bowl. Because they wouldn't do her dry-cleaning? No: "We didn't think it would be right."
An imminent movie that's all right? That would be Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding, an exuberant epiconly in Delhi, kidswhich uses the matrimonial occasion to celebrate the human spirit. (But it's way better than that sounds.) As a fellow cineaste, I recently asked Nair how she feels about other such conjoinment-oriented flicks. She said she rented Robert Altman's A Wedding, "but never got around to watching it, though I love his work." Betsy's Wedding? "I haven't even seen Muriel's Wedding. I have no patience for weddings!" But she did enjoy The Celebration, the Dogme film about a birthday party, which has a dramatic Act II revelation, much like Monsoon. And that was the end of our celebratory-cinema talk. In fact, Nair's first Monsoon cut didn't even include the ceremony! "The film is not about the anthropology of ritual," she explained. Pleasewhat isthese days?
Nair has also shot an HBO movie called Hysterical Blindnesswith Uma Thurmanand said her mission with that was "trying to breathe life into New Jersey, which is sometimes a visual challenge." Speaking of challenges: India versus the U.S.discuss. Well, she said, "the challenge I feel in America is to breathe life into the extreme orderliness of a set, whereas in India it's chaotic and you have to choreograph the chaos and make it pulsate. Here, you have to breathe the chaosotherwise the orderliness can kill the spirit." Especially in New Jersey.