Terror, Comedy, Tragedy, and Just Plain Fun
Misery, Dames at Sea, Allegiance, and Ripcord
By Barry Bassis
Stephen King's novel Misery was adapted into a movie by William Goldman, who has now created a stage version (at the Broadhurst Theatre). The plot concerns a popular writer named Paul Sheldon, who is held captive by his self-proclaimed "number one fan," Annie Wilkes. After a car accident, his legs are broken and he finds himself bed-ridden in Wilkes's remote house. Audiences are drawn in by Bruce Willis, but it's Laurie Metcalf as his deranged admirer who delivers the goods. (The same thing happened in the 1990 movie, for which Kathy Bates won the Oscar.) Leon Addison Brown is likeable as the local sheriff. Misery (directed by Will Frears) has some funny lines and quite a bit of violence. The best element may be David Korins's revolving set.
(photos by Joan Marcus)
Dames at Sea
Dames at Sea is the little musical that could. It opened off-off-Broadway in 1966 and introduced theatergoers to the teenaged Bernadette Peters. The show has been presented around the world—an entertaining British cast recording from 1969 has recently been issued by Sony's Masterworks Broadway. The musical has finally made it to Broadway, and while it's a modest production, the cast is loaded with talent. The idea of Dames at Sea is to parody a 1930's musical, like 42nd Street. So here the young lady gets off the bus and within minutes is cast in a show and meets her beau. By the time of the opening, which takes place on a ship, she has been promoted to star. The songs by Jim Wise (music) and George Haimsohn and Robin Miller (lyrics) are also a pastiche of pop music of the era. The cast sings well, but the dancing, choreographed by Randy Skinner, is spectacular. As the ingénue, Eloise Kropp is a charmer. The rest of the cast is also tops: Cary Tedder as her boyfriend, Danny Gardner as his fellow sailor, Lesli Margherita as the resident diva, Mara Davi as an experienced chorus girl, and John Bolton in two very different roles. Kudos to orchestrator Jonathan Tunick and set designer Anna Louizos.
(photos by Jeremy Daniel)
Allegiance (at Longacre Theatre) is the ambitious musical that deals with one of our nation's gravest human rights violations: The internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. George Takei (Hikaru Sulu in the Star Trek series) plays a double role—as an elderly retired U.S. soldier and, in a flashback, as his grandfather. Adding to the impact is the fact that Takei and his family were among those imprisoned in the camps. Lea Salonga cancelled at the performance I attended, but her understudy Elena Wang was terrific, with a lovely singing voice. The show presents the schism between those Japanese Americans who insisted on joining the army and those who protested. (Telly Leung and Michael K. Lee are excellent as the two protagonists.) Jay Kuo's songs are sometimes stirring and occasionally witty. The book by Kuo, Marc Acito, and Lorenzo Thione and the direction by Stafford Arima are somewhat uneven, but this is a show that moves and enlightens audiences.
David Lindsay-Abaire's Ripcord at Manhattan Theater Club is a return to the surrealistic comedies he wrote at the beginning of his career, before he won a Pulitzer Prize for the drama Rabbit Hole. Two women sharing a room in a nursing home become mortal enemies and play both funny and cruel tricks on one another. Directed by David Hyde Pierce with Marylouise Burke and Holland Taylor as the roommates, Ripcord has its ups and downs. As nursing home shows go, stick with The Gin Game.