A Catered Affair's Identity Crisis Management

Fierstein and Bucchino seek intimacy on Broadway; two Off-Broadway plays seek laughs in sorrows

As always, Rudnick's material, while thin as drama, is unremittingly and unashamedly funny. Nicholas Martin stages it brightly and aptly. He has some trouble with the Mr. Charles section, where Bartlett's once-gemlike performance seems a tad rushed and mechanical, perhaps from overfamiliarity; you can practically see the actor's eyes light up when he moves into the newer material. But with Lavin and Houdyshell so magisterially perfect, plus Doyle's endearing mock dopiness, there's nothing to complain of. Is it a play? That question may have to wait a few decades, till people start reviving early Rudnick.


Small lives, big stage: Leslie Kritzer and Faith Prince in  A Catered Affair
Jim Cox
Small lives, big stage: Leslie Kritzer and Faith Prince in A Catered Affair

Details

A Catered Affair
By Harvey Fierstein and John Bucchino
Walter Kerr Theatre
219 West 48th Street
212-239-6200

The New Century
By Paul Rudnick
Mitzi Newhouse Theater
Lincoln Center
212-889-4300

From Up Here
By Liz Flahive
Manhattan Theatre Club
131 West 55th Street
212-581-1212

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Revival isn't a fate likely to afflict Liz Flahive's From Up Here, at Manhattan Theatre Club, another in the unending recent line of dysfunctional-family dramas that try to merge serious material with sitcom tone. But sitcoms at their best have the advantage of being able to amplify their material every week; we knew lots more about the Ricardos or the Kramdens after one season than we learn in one evening about Flahive's implausible couple, and the troubled wife's two troubled children by her first husband. Nor is it easy to see why we should care, though Leigh Silverman's speedy, smooth production doesn't skimp on acting power: Julie White and Aya Cash, as mother and daughter, register forcefully in roles very different than those we've seen them in before, while Tobias Segal, as the medicated son, is heartrendingly perfect.

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