Low-Flying Genres

America's Got War Worries, but Broadway's Too Busy Going Downhill to Notice

Life (X) 3: a limited social circle
photo: Joan Marcus
Life (X) 3: a limited social circle

Details

Life (X) 3
By Yasmina Reza
Translated by Christopher Hampton
Circle in the Square
Broadway and 50th Street
212-239-6200

The Play What I Wrote
By Hamish MacColl
Lyceum Theatre
Seventh Avenue and 45th Street
212-239-6200

Urban Cowboy
By Aaron Latham and Philip Oesterman,
songs by Jason Robert Brown et al.
Broadhurst Theatre
Broadway and 44th Street
212-239-6200

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Still, I didn't mind it much. Though rarely inspired, the three are usually competent. (I was pleased to note that they had quoted me as saying so, in advance, on one of their innumerable gimmicky backdrops. This tiny show carries enough scenery to revive a Ziegfeld revue, and enough gadgets to resuscitate Joe Cook.) Foley, the aggressor of the principal duo, is a speedy and skilled acrobatic clown; MacColl, his perpetual victim, has a likable mild wistfulness. And they are the only people currently onstage in America willing to announce with glee that their show has just driven Gerry Schoenfeld to suicide. They were able, similarly, to make the press-night celebrity guest, Kevin Kline, stand still and not wince while they confused him with Calvin. ("I've been wearing your shorts for years," says Foley, pulling them from his waistband and handing them to Kline.) This indicates a certain determination to succeed, but with what? Jokes about the Count de Toblerone, a sweet gentleman, though a bit nutty, originally Swiss. Like the scenario of Life (x) 3, you've done this stuff for yourself already, while throwing bread sticks at each other across the table in your college cafeteria. No, you haven't got Foley and MacColl's impeccable timing. But you're smarter than they are; you knew when to stop.




Nearly stopped in its anodyne tracks by the daily reviews, Urban Cowboy has been reprieved; not every retarded Texan is so lucky. But then, Urban Cowboy's not criminal, just mainly mediocre, predictable, and a tad noisy. Small-town Texas boy comes to big Texas city, meets and marries a girl as manly as himself, loses her, and gets her back. This ungainly story, initially carpentered up to parlay a magazine article into a feature film, barely holds together onstage. Keeping the lovers apart takes as much strained contrivance as getting them into the final clinch; along with the strain comes dialogue as ponderous as the worst operetta scripts, and characters so stock they might as well be robots with labels. Leo Burmester, Sally Mayes, Marcus Chait, and Rozz Morehead manage to shove a little chiaroscuro into four of these monochrome figures, but that only steals attention from the lead couple, a pair of charming blanks (he's prettier, she's spunkier) who drift, seemingly unaffected, through their wooden dialogue and the show's erratic patchwork of songs, old and new. Some of the newer items, variously by Jason Robert Brown, Jeff Blumenkrantz, and Bob Stillman, aren't bad. But garish designs, trite choreography, and the emptiness at the center of the generalized blare don't encourage enthusiasm. New York probably wouldn't be in the mood for a big, brash show about Texas just now anyway, but Urban Cowboy's worst flaw is that it conveys only the barest hint of Texas or of country music; it feels more like a road-tour repro of some other New York show.
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