By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
To land your movie in the Tribeca Film Festival, it might help to use your vagina or even just to get one. RICKI LAKE did well with that up-close-and-personal birthing documentary. ("Watching myself give birth with 350 strangers was challenging," Ricki admitted to me recentlymeaning at the screening, not in the delivery room.) And ALEXIS ARQUETTE shook up the festival with She's My Brother, the attention-getting doc about his sex-reassignment surgery. (IMDb.com says that if you liked it, it also recommends The History of Masturbation, My Penis and I, and Dirty Pretty Things. Or just watch it again.)
At the film's after-party at Fig & Olivebut no nutsAlexis was enchanting as usual and lit up when I told her she looked a bit like LIV TYLER. ("I love hearing that!" Alexis exclaimed, in between posing with some shirtless hunks that happened to be there.) But let's cut, as it were, to the chase: Did she keep her sizable, world-famous dick in a jar? "They used it to make the vagina," Alexis informed me. "All of it!" Wowthat's got to be the biggest vagina on earth! At least Alexis has one of those names that could work either way, unlike, say, David, Rosanna, or Patricia. But how will this genital switcheroo affect the roles she gets? "They dried up, hon," Alexis replied, deadpan. "I can't work as a male actor anymore because I'm only interested in transgendered female roles." Are there all that many of those? "We're underrepresented," she admitted. "Taxation without representation! And I'm only taking offersno auditions. I have a huge body of work." And a body with some huge work. "Eventually," she went on, "I'll be able to do a LINDA HUNT and play a male again, but right now I can't." I only hope she doesn't lose the few transgendered female roles there are to FELICITY HUFFMAN.
Even a man bearing a documentary turned up at the festivalnamely, DIEGO LUNA, whom some call "the other guy from Y Tu Mamá También," though I just call him "the guy from Y Tu Mamá Tambiénand a close personal friend, ba dum pum." He's now the guy who directed the boxing doc Chavez, which non-jocks like me attended mainly to see the dreamy-eyed Luna emerge afterward for a cutely self-deprecating Q&A. "Somebody want to complain about the film?" he said, smiling, as we all melted. No one complained. "Your advice for young filmmakers?" someone asked. "I don't know if you should trust me," Luna replied, trying out the self-dep again. "You have to be a good storyteller and scratch the surface. And the toughest thing is to convince everyone around that you can make it." He then told a long, involved, vividly hilarious story that I can't possibly repeat here. Because it was in Spanish.
Covering a much more competitive arena than boxing, the Drama Desk had a nominees reception at Arte Cafe, bringing out theater people being wildly theatrical about having been recognized for being wildly theatrical. Legally Blonde's always fun ORFEH said she was "apoplectic" about this and her Outer Critics Circle nod. "I screamed really loud when I got the Outer Critics nomination," she said, "and I had to see Dr. Kessler. Eight shows a week don't get me to the doctor, but the nomination got me!" Whoever Dr. Kessler is, awards season must be his or her boom time.
Non-screamer JAN MAXWELL was also there, nominated for the dickless, I mean Dickensian, epic Coram Boy, which in a reverse Arquetteism has some women playing boys. But does she play a woman? "Yes," Maxwell said, smiling. "Not like at home."
To get closer to my home, I stepped outside, where Some Men's FREDERICK WELLER was arriving on a skateboard as everyone's tongues dropped even lower than they do in Legally Blonde for UPS man ANDY KARL. (Or anywhere for my good friend Diego Luna.) Blonde's director/choreographer JERRY MITCHELL was entering tooby a more conventional vehicleand smirking, "I drank enough on Sunday!" And finally, I had a sexually elevating conversation with Spring Awakening's director MICHAEL MAYER, who told me he's in love with his cast ("They don't know how to phone it in"), though he's a little concerned about how the inevitable Forbidden Broadway sketch will spoof them. ("The microphones are so phallic!"). In the meantime, Mayer assured me there have been no heart attacks in the audience, despite the racy rock material that spans circle jerks, incest, suicide, and bad-hair days. "I keep waiting for the trauma and it hasn't come," Mayer said. "We haven't even had a stroke. Or a hemorrhoid. Though I couldn't tell for sure about that." Ask Dr. Kessler, I guess.
The show, Mayer told me, has become an offbeat family musical for offbeat families. "You see mothers and daughters, fathers and sonsdifferent combinations," he said. "You see the dad sink down a little and the girl lift up. You know conversations will start happening." Recently, WARREN BEATTY and ANNETTE BENING brought their offbeat family to see the show and dined with Mayer afterward. "From the beginning of the conversation," said Mayer, "you could tell this was going to engender some serious birds-and-bees talk." Considering Warren's romantic track record, you'd think his kids would just automatically know.
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!