The Rational Pastime

Greenberg Wins the Pennant; Haring Gets Marketed Again

That sense is enhanced considerably, now, by Joe Mantello's production, a fulfilled work for which the downtown run was only a rough sketch. Along with the cut and reshaped text come sharper details and a tighter emotional focus. With the larger stage come bolder actions, stronger tensions, and more sense of the game. Sunjata's found the trajectory of his role; Huff's found ways to sneak an extra sense of jitters into his. Weller's Shane seems haunted by even darker demons. Even if we've only started to grasp the quicksilver structure of this troubling, complex play, it seems preposterous for anyone to complain about an evening that offers so much. And O'Hare's performance is one for the record books.

Radiant Baby, the Public Theater's musical about Keith Haring, has a vivid presentness too, but of a considerably lesser kind. Sculpted masterfully by George C. Wolfe's directorial eye, its easy flow is often eloquently beautiful to gaze at. But inside this visual wonderland, there's little to perceive except the same mopey old tropes, as another idealistic young artist gets chewed up by the fame machine. Stuart Ross's book keeps dropping hints that there's more to Haring's story, and Ira Gasman's lyrics, at their best, are so stingingly exact that you wish they would grapple with the bigger issues. The writers get little help from Debra Barsha's music, drably repetitive filler waiting for someone else's tunes. Even Wolfe's lush compositions are sometimes sandbagged by Fatima Robinson's choreography, which mistakenly tries to evoke a club scene by literal reproduction, a sure way to make audiences wish they weren't sitting down. Praise to Robinson, though, if she invented Daniel Reichard's goofy, broken-legged dancing style as Haring when he finally takes the floor: It tells you more about Haring than anything else in the show.

Take Me Out: Greenberg throws baseball a curve.
photo: Joan Marcus
Take Me Out: Greenberg throws baseball a curve.


Take Me Out
By Richard Greenberg
Walter Kerr Theatre
219 West 48th Street

Radiant Baby
By Stuart Ross, Ira Gasman, and Debra Barsha
Joseph Papp Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street

What drove Haring, to what extent he hastened his own downfall, where his vision and his imagery sprang from—the show slides across these questions but hardly explores them. A big deal is made of his veneration for Andy Warhol, but only linked to Haring's marketing, not his art. There's no sense of his un-Andyish enthusiasm for the forbidden, of the link between his drawing in subways under threat of arrest and his exploring the homosexual nightworld (the sexually graphic nature of some of his work goes unmentioned). Nor, despite the title, do we ever hear anything about the significance to him of his most familiar and heavily marketed image. The insufficiency's maddening because, when Radiant Baby's on, it's spot-on, with beautiful work particularly by Reichard and Kate Jennings Grant. When it's off, which is frequently, it's just an overdecorated case of the blahs in hip-hop drag. And when Wolfe's designers capture Haring's work most successfully, you feel his magical presence under this pile of noise and clichés, desperate to get out. And that really hurts.

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