Flat-Panel Tuners

Slug Bearers gives delicious 2-D attitude; Next to Normal pushes hard to give more

Because Next to Normal leaves lots of icky questions (hard to describe without spoiling that first-act surprise) unexplored on its way from horrific family mess to partial cure, it doesn't move or inspire you as it ostentatiously hopes to. Michael Greif's direction marshals excellent performances from his six-person cast—in addition to Damiano, Brian d'Arcy James and Alice Ripley do towering work as the troubled parents—but he also seems to be pushing the material further than its abstractness will go. As a case history, it lacks data; as a drama, it lacks depth. But with such strong performances, and writing so skillful on the streamlined surface, you can't help wishing it well—or wondering how it might look tucked in among the deadpan ironies of Katchor's flat-panel world.

Brains, artistry, Katchor: The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island
Carol Rosegg
Brains, artistry, Katchor: The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island

Details

The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island (or, The Friends of Dr. Rushower)
By Ben Katchor and Mark Mulcahy
Vineyard Theatre
108 East 15th Street
868-811-4111

Next to NormalBy Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt
Second Stage Theater
307 West 43rd Street
212-246-4422

Applause
By Comden, Green, Adams, and Strouse

City Center Encores!
(Closed)

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Applause, the 1970 musicalization of Joseph L. Mankiewicz's cinema-classic, backstage backbiter, All About Eve, belongs there, too. At least it seemed to in the tired-ish, flattish staged concert that City Center Encores! gave it under Kathleen Marshall's direction. Christine Ebersole, hampered by flu and a hideous wig, made Margo Channing feisty but unalluring; Erin Davie made an unexpectedly pallid Eve. Kate Burton, Chip Zien, and a blessedly low-key Mario Cantone did well in lesser roles, and Marshall as choreographer had some good '70s-disco fun with "But Alive." Still, the pancake-flat fact remained: Applause, a flawed and mediocre show to start with, was a weak choice for revival. Even Katchor and McGrath probably couldn't imbue it with much comic-book magic.

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