While we’re waiting for the Ethan Hawke Hamlet movie with the Pepsi One product placement, not to mention Kenneth Branagh’s Fred-and-Ginger version of Love’s Labour’s Lost, there’s still that other fizzy bit of modernized bard—The Bomb-itty of Errors, a zany hip-hop take on The Comedy of Errors that undoubtedly has Shakespeare rolling . . . in the aisles. The long-running NYU-thesis-turned-Off-Broadway-hit mixes Three Stooges, drag, and street rhythms for an effect that, though Busta Rhymes probably shouldn’t be worried, sweeps you along with a buoyancy that yields way more comedy than error.
The last time I bump-ittied into the show’s five coauthors-performers, they lavished me with impromptu rap (“I got mustard on my dog/That’s why I’m chillin’ like Boss Hogg”) and told me their insider marketing strategies, like how one of them urges potential customers to boycott the show because “it’s the white co-option of hip-hop!” (“It gets them into the theater,” he added, grinning.) Since then, the guys have gotten even more perversely savvy and by now really are the boss, effortlessly commandeering an endless array of talk shows and PR stunts. At their party at the Globe last week, tied in with Shakespeare’s 436th birthday, Bomb-itty boy Jordan Allen-Dutton told me he’s been up to “crazy promotional shit all the fucking time. This one’s not so bad—at least there’s free drinks!” (And a cake for Will’s special day, plus an appearance by the man himself—or some grunge facsimile.)
As this MC “Misdemeanor” Shakespeare networked the crowd, the guys looked back on their bevy of public spectacles and admitted they deeply regret their recent gig at the 42nd Street Arcade. “Finally we had a hip-hop audience,” said Jason Catalano, “but the sound system sucked and we got booed off the stage.” That sort of thing would humble the stars-in-waiting, if they needed such a wake-up call. But forsooth, they’re still extremely real, even though at one point Allen-Dutton barked, “We’re corrupt monsters now! Give me another free drink! Where are the bitches?” Chill—he was kidding.
In less felicitous legit news, Elaine May has got to be kidding with Taller Than a Dwarf, her 28-years-too-late apparent reworking of comedy bard Neil Simon‘s The Prisoner of Second Avenue. Alas, in this case, we’re held prisoner by the thinness of the material, the Jew jokes, and the dated, obvious point (society is corrupt, so why not join it?). Boycott this show! It’s the lame co-option of Broadway!
The Music Man revival, at least, serves up its corn as if it were the special of the day at Pastis. Yeah, the lead guy plays it like Robert Preston (in Victor/Victoria, that is), but Rebecca Luker sings purely, the white rap songs (like “Trouble”) outdo even Bomb-itty, and it’s all so darned eager to please that you soon forget this is just The Rainmaker with trombones instead of precipitation.
Of course Gypsy remains the ultimate drag-queen musical, so I chased down its gayola librettist Arthur Laurents at his book party last week and screamed, “Give me another free drink! Where are the books?” I only got a carrot, and worse, mere seconds after I was introduced to the guy, Phyllis Newman swept in and boomed, “Is that Arthur Laurents, who’s had more sex than anyone in the American theater?” She whooshed him away, and suddenly I wanted him more desperately than ever.
Cindy Adams—who’s had more kreplach than anyone in the American theater—had her birthday dinner at Wolf’s Delicatessen, which made perfect sense for the former Miss Brooklyn Bagel. As cohost Arlene Dahl sang a few bars of “Lavender blue deli deli,” I grabbed a Pepsi One, got mustard on my dog, and noticed that Cindy was lavishly spelled out in sourdough on the buffet table. It was the world’s first edible marquee—and not the only one. After giant plates of pastrami and brisket, I rolled over to the desserts, where there was a watermelon boat with Cindy cut out of it and a vat of Jell-O with those very letters placed on top in watermelon rind! In lieu of Shakespeare, Richard Skipper performed in drag as Carol Channing, and I realized how similar Cindy’s birthday parties are becoming to mine (though my name is generally cut out of go-go boys’ Speedos). But when Skipper told Cindy, “I would do anything for you,” the columnist blurted, “How about leave?” He didn’t, instead seizing the chance to pose with the real Judge Judy. Only in . . . you know.
Only on Romance Classics could Nine to Five—the ’80 comedy caper about three women torturing their sexist-pig boss—be considered romantic, but it does make me kind of hot. At a special screening last week, I poured myself a cup of ambition and suffered post-Parton depression—or actually no-Parton depression because Dolly couldn’t make it, though that Turner classic, Jane Fonda, came and even let her (security) guard down for a second. When asked by an MC if she’s ever had a nasty boss, Jane deadpanned, “Yes—a few husbands, who shall remain nameless.” OK, here goes—Roger, Tom, and Ted. Bruno Barreto not only names his wife—Amy Irving—he starred her in Bossa Nova, a wispy screwball comedy (a la-bamb-itty of errors, as it were) with Irving playing a widow who falls for an older man. Is the guy a stand-in for Barreto? “No,” the director told me in an airy interview. “I identify myself more with his brother, the guy who doesn’t get the girl. I got the girl, but it took me a while. When you start to make feature films when you’re 17, there’s something wrong with you. I directed Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands when I was 20. You should be dating, dancing, flirting. I was a nerd!” But a nerd who made an extremely watchable, practically softcore art film.
More recently, wife Amy executed a clitoral samba in The Vagina Monologues, and Bruno panted for it. She performed no less than 20 onstage orgasms, and he said, “The word is she was the best.” But there’s new competition for the pelvic prize. Donna Hanover—you know, the wife of the man who suddenly opposes extreme force—is going into the show, and Barreto told me, “It’s great that she’s doing it. I’m sure [Rudy] doesn’t feel great about it, but what can he do? And he needs a wife to get elected.”
Barreto needs his wife to get erected, though columnists Rush and Molloy recently reported that he has a crush on Lena Olin and Irving joneses for Gerard Depardieu. “I think Lena’s great,” the bard of Brazil confirmed to me, “but if I make a film with her, there’s a camera between us. If Amy makes one with Gerard, there’s nothing between them. So I can make a film with Lena, but she cannot make one with Gerard. At least that’s how I see it.” And he’s the boss—anova.
In contempo music news, just as they’ve made Toni Braxton into Jennifer Lopez, now Leif Garrett has improbably become Kurt Cobain. At Bowery Ballroom the other night, the ’70s heartthrob sang something called “Smells Like Teen Idol” with Nirvana’s old pals the Melvins. Smells like crazy promotional shit.