By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
It takes a village to produce a premiere as dazzlingly detailed as the one for The Villagean evening of calculated mayhem that made me more terrified than I'd been since the unveiling of Catwoman! The horror started when we realized we were going to be taken to Brooklynand what's more, we were going via a gigantic bus that would crawl through the narrow streets of Chinatown in circles (maybe crop circles) on the way there. But it was worth the hour-long ride when we finally arrived at a tented area in Prospect Park filled with hired help, seemingly out of that Amish reality show, playing with dried flowers amid spreads of period-perfect foodstuffs like wheat berry salad and bread pudding. I love a theme and people with the balls to carry it out! I adore the Village people!
By the madrigal players, I told ex-Monkee MICKY DOLENZ that just coming to Brooklyn was scary enough for meand I'm from there. "They don't even have to show the movie," he said, nicely going along with the joke. But they were going toand this being an M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN joint, one wondered just what the bone-chilling twist ending was gonna be. Were all the characters going to be already dead and have penises and drive off a cliff? And were they going to fictionalize it all while lounging by their swimming pools? "I believe it'll all be in the blind girl's head," said campy chat show host GRAHAM NORTON, in between nuzzling with a tall, pretty boy. "Someone will tell her the story. She lives in a trailer and she can't leave home or she'll fall down the trailer steps!" "I have no idea," said Law & Order's JESSE L. MARTIN. "I just hope I'm terrified. And I'm gonna be sitting with a pregnant lady [his old Rent co-star DAPHNE RUBIN-VEGA]!" "Whatever it is," offered no-nonsense designer CYNTHIA ROWLEY, "it's real. It's not a dream at all. That'll be the twist." But Mean Girls maven TINA FEY gave it the gamest try of all: "The twist is that we're all going to get murdered in the woods!"
At this point, the world's loudest bell clanged and a voice boomed, "Take your belongings and go to the woods"and even if Tina Fey was right, you don't argue with a disembodied voice. We obediently traipsed through a creepily gorgeous pathway in the park, studded with Renaissance Faire extras wearing hooded robes that would surely scare off any muggersunless they were the muggers. We arrived at the open-air theater, where a Phantom of the Opera type drowned out my shrieks with random organ notes. "Please let the cell phone not be heard," urged another voice. "That annoys them." I promptly threw mine in the garbage (it was a lemon anyway) and submitted to the movie, whichthough the two twists aren't twisty enough and ADRIEN BRODY is out of his mindis a moody, spellbinding beauty that's the summer's third Bush-bashing popcorn flick, and that's not even counting Fahrenheit 9/11. As we left, the robed folks were now wearing red ensembles, and I fell to the ground in appreciation of the extra effort. That totally explains the grass stains on my knees!
Vegging out in the Hamptons
Actually, I had already gone to the woods when the Drama Dept. had a benefit in Bridgehampton starring a not scary buffet made from various arty celebs' recipes. I was sure BILLY CRUDUP's "tomato surprise"unlike Shyamalan'swould involve him saying, "Surprise, honey, I'm leaving you for a younger tomato!" but it was actually just tomatoes with vodka and kosher salt. (And it was CYNTHIA NIXON's tomato surprise. I changed it just to make that joke. I should be shot. Billy supplied the "sweet and smoky baked beans.") Anyway, PATRICIA CLARKSON's "spicy garlic rosemary shrimp" dish was the highlight, along with a puppeteer and a magician entertaining dozens of tots and one shrimp-filled grown-up.
The legit theater went back to serving up plates of plain old drama with After the Fall, the revival of ARTHUR MILLER's play that mixes monologues, fantasy, and lurid autobiography. It's Nine all over again as a troubled male is surrounded by pleading, screeching women and a sleek stairway. But considering the mythic nature of their roles and the fact that the Holocaust and McCarthyism are both thrown in to symbolize man's inhumanity to man, the lead actors are a little too ordinary (it's Karen Sisco meets Six Feet Under) and one tends to agree with the line, "We're not talking about what we're talking about, are we?" Still there's much crackling observation here and I had no idea Marilyn Monroe was such a bitch!
A home at the end of the whirl
In the audience, I asked Pulitzer-winning author MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM what he thinks the twist ending of The Village is. "I don't know," Cunningham said, "but I should. I was one of the few people who knew the Sixth Sense twist right away. I thought, 'OK, no one's talking to him, so he's obviously dead. What's the surprise going to be?' " That you paid 10 bucks!