The Tell-Tale Art

The Piano Teacher ponders stories; Rag and Bone makes them ponderously cute

Haidle's main characters are two brothers, played by Matthew Stadelmann and Michael Chernus, fresh from all-too-similar (though non-sibling) roles in Rattlestick's previous production, Adam Rapp's American Sligo. As in Rapp's work, Stadelmann plays an impossibly naive ninny and Chernus the wearily reality-facing elder bro who protects him; Haidle's script also shares with its Rappian predecessor an idolized dead mother for whom a cartoonishly absurd replacement duly appears. Nor is Rapp the sole source of the evening's feeling of déj à vu; you can reconstruct Haidle's reading list from his gimmickry. The brothers run an absurd business—a ladder store (cf. the meat department store in Arnold Weinstein's Red Eye of Love), where Chernus's character makes bigger money from black-market heart transplants that give the recipient the original owner's personality (cf. Kenneth Koch's A Change of Hearts).

The playing's the thing: Herlihy and Franz in The Piano Teacher
Carol Rosegg
The playing's the thing: Herlihy and Franz in The Piano Teacher

Details

Teacher
By Julia Cho
Vineyard Theatre
108 East 15th Street
212-353-0303

Rag and Bone
By Noah Haidle
Rattlestick Playwrights Theater
224 Waverly Place
212-868-4444

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A wandering poet (Henry Stram) whose heart has been stolen, a millionaire (David Wohl) who can't find his, and a hooker (Deirdre O'Connell) whose aortic musculature is pure gold but totally devoted to her work—all escapees from a thousand earlier plays—round out the list of major characters. To watch these excellent actors, under Sam Gold's direction, finesse their way through Haidle's mucky paste of cutesy-poo and crassness makes for a deeply dismaying experience; its most annoying aspect is the evidence of Haidle's genuine talent that keeps glimmering through his relentless attempts to display his imagination. It made me recall something the British critic C.E. Montague wrote back in J.M. Barrie's whimsical heyday: "The way to get into heaven is to become as a little child again, so long as you don't keep thinking what an adorable child you are.

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