Theater review: “Timeshare,” at Brown/Trinity Playwrights Rep

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Partner and I saw the last play in the Brown/Trinity Playwrights Rep series, “Timeshare,” on Saturday night.

 

 

I love a good farce. I have a very childish sense of humor; I love it when people run in and out of rooms, and scream, and dress in ridiculous outfits, and hide inside coffee tables. (Of course, it has to be done well.  Silly is good; stupid is quite another thing.) Also, you need actors with good timing, who can scream, and cajole, and wheedle, and make funny faces, and do long ridiculous takes.

 

 

We were fortunate to have pretty much all of the above on Saturday night.

 

 

This is a traditional mixed-up family comedy: everyone (mother, father, married daughter + husband, unmarried daughter + boyfriend) shows up at the mountain cabin on the same weekend. Misunderstandings ensue. Two engagement rings are hidden, misplaced, given to the wrong recipients.

 

 

As in all good farce, there is a happy ending.

 

 

I especially liked the use – and subtle subversion – of stereotypes. There’s an unbearable Jewish mother, who turns out to be a convert. The whiny emasculated Jewish dad is also a stoner. The handsome black boyfriend (a shaygetz if I ever saw one) is Jewish. The banker son-in-law is as dumb as a bag of hammers.

 

 

All in all: nicely done.

 

 

(This is a brand-new play, and a very nice one. It takes a teeny bit too long to set the scene in the first act; I think we could have met the characters more speedily. I kept wanting it to be funny during the first few scenes, but it felt sitcom-watery. Once all six of the characters were introduced, however, the fun began in earnest, and there were few dull moments after that.)

 

 

I give high marks to three of the performers: Mark Cohen, the father; Anne Nichols, the mother; and Ben Chase, the goofily stupid/charming son-in-law. (He was my favorite: he’s tall and lanky, with an expressive face and a voice that goes from cornball to Yalie to falsetto seamlessly. We got a lot of laughs out of him.)

 

 

From “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”:

 

 

No royal curse, no Trojan horse –

And a happy ending, of course.

What is the moral? Must be a moral . . .

Here is the moral, wrong or right:

Tragedy tomorrow – comedy tonight!


 

American idiots

 

 


 

 

Emily Dickinson said real poetry made her feel as if the top of her head had been taken off.

 

I had that experience on Saturday.

 

Partner and I went to see “American Idiot” on Broadway. If you’re as out of touch with popular music as I am, you will need to be told that this show is based on the Green Day album of the same name. Partner had seen some scenes on the last Tony Awards telecast and was very interested in it. I was a little dubious; I had bad memories of a road production of “Movin’ Out,” the Billy Joel-inspired ballet/musical, and after an hour’s worth of Twyla Tharp-style leaps and twirls to the tune of “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant,” I decided that stage shows and pop music do not mix.

 

I was wrong.

 

This is an amazing show. Everything pops. The set is a busy amalgam of rock concert, living-room furniture, fire escapes, and a compact car suspended by chains over stage right. And video screens everywhere, chattering through the whole show. And light projections, sometimes mimicking the action, sometimes commenting on it, sometimes disagreeing with it.

 

The talent – well, it’s Broadway, you really don’t make it onto the stage unless you’re pretty good. Everybody in the cast was able to sing, and dance, and act, and do gymnastics, and play the guitar. I kid you not. Everybody.

 

And the dancing! This is not Twyla Tharp. This is angry dancing. This is ugly dancing. When the choreography was supposed to communicate fighting, or sex, I found myself holding my breath, thinking: Oh my god they’re actually doing it.

 

And then there are the songs. Every new musical I’ve been to for years has had dead spots and meaningless songs. “We need a song here – go write one. How about a ballad?” (The “Spamalot” number “The Song That Goes Like This” says it better than I ever could.) “American Idiot” does not have a single wasted song or dead spot. The ballads, when they come along, are actually a welcome relief to the propulsive energy of the show; you get a chance to catch your breath before the next onslaught.

 

When we came out, Partner and I were both incredibly buzzed, and had to walk around for a while to get rid of the energy we’d built up during the show. New York is always sensory overload for me anyway, so I was deaf and blind for a few minutes as we jostled our way down 44th Street.

 

But Partner told me a story later about something he’d seen right after we came out of the theater.

 

In among the crowd, he saw a mother dragging two kids – a boy around thirteen, a girl maybe fourteen – out of the theater. The boy had a rapturous look on his face; he’d obviously really enjoyed the show. And then his mother shrieked: “I don’t want you to get any ideas! I don’t want you to come home smelling like drugs and dragging girls home with you!”

 

Partner said the boy shrank into himself, going from ecstasy to sullen defensiveness in a matter of seconds. The boy turned to his sister. “You liked it,” he said accusingly. “I saw you crying.”

 

“I was not crying,” the sister said. “I thought it was boring.”

 

The mother did not get it. Maybe the sister got it and maybe she didn’t.

 

But the boy got it.

 

Once the top of your head gets taken off, there’s no getting it back on again.

 


 

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