By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
And suddenly it was time to stop the conversation and actually see some of the damned shows. Coram Boy, it turns out, has theatrical sweep, shrieking melodramatics, and Handel music, and though the couple next to me couldn't run fast enough at intermission, the remainders leapt to their feet at the end, buoyed by the rousing conclusion and the encore consisting of the Hallellujah Chorus. But I'm the only one who got the literary reference when the boy (played by a woman) found his voice cracking. It was straight out of The Brady Bunch!
TV-land favorites don't figure in the Weill jukebox musical LoveMusik, a/k/a Good Weill-brations, though the actors' Hogan's Heroeslike German accents result in lines on the order of, "I'm zee biggest lunkhead in zee world" and "Look what zee cat dragged in." The utterly admirable show drips in all the right trappings of Weill/Lenya artistry, but with its shoehorned songs and erratic pace, it verges on being zee fabulous misfire and zee beautiful bore. "It needs a double bass," murmured a musician in the audience.
Another doomed love battle, Deuce has the only two straight female tennis players in the world reuniting to indulge in cliches ("How the mighty have fallen"), self-important pronouncements ("We were pioneers!" "We were tennis stars. Huge, huge tennis stars!"), and strained old-fogeyisms ("They all grunt now!" one says re today's huge, huge tennis stars). The lumbering result is vastly elevated by ANGELA LANSBURY and MARIAN SELDES, who bring decades of timing and craftsmanship to the stage, but watching them lift this thing on their aging shoulders is like seeing your two favorite great-aunts get slimed by mud as a careless truck careens by and almost kills them. Toward the very end, the play does manage some kind of woozy grace, and without the use of the Hallellujah Chorus, but by then I had joined the grunters.
From tennis we go to Radio Golf, August Wilson's last playhis Curtains, as it werewhich starts off a little static and heavy-handed, like a very special episode of Sanford and Son, but develops steam, its haves-versus-have-nots theme crackling more intensely as the characters get angrier. And even middle-drawer Wilson is better than Angela Lansbury having to make cute wisecracks about her bowel regularity.
Finally, 110 in the Shade has a guy named Starbuck bringing an ailing town a much-needed liquidno, not medium-sized iced mochaccinos, but rainwater, and lots of it, even for the front row! The lovingly done revival unveils a lovely, absorbing show, and though the production is smallish (only eight townspeople!), AUDRA MCDONALDcan fill any stage with her genius, even when pretending to be "plain" and unmarryable. Plus, JOHN CULLUM's delightful as usual as Dad, and as the adorably dumb brother, BOBBY STEGGERT proves an irresistible triple threat who's destined for stardom. He aroused my privatesand they're in a jar!