Possibly of interest to my co-citizens headed to New York for the holidays: what I plan to see on my busperson’s holiday, when I’m unconstrained in my choices–and paying my own money.
1. A Little Night Music with Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch. The loveliest of Sondheim musicals performed by two of his finest interpreters. The New York Times, which gave the show tepid reviews when it starred Catherine Zeta Jones and Angela Lansbury, calls the production with this cast a must-see–and who am I to disagree? Stritch appeared before Chicago audiences this past summer at Ravinia’s Martin Theater, but Peters hasn’t been here in four years. So if Mohammed won’t go to the mountain...
2. Other Desert Cities, about the relationship between a lefty daughter and her Reaganite family (or maybe it’s the other way around). Despite a premise that recalls Michael J. Fox on Family Ties, I’m eager to see this brand-new piece, still in previews. Playwright Jon Robin Baitz always writes smart plays with a political edge in which progressives are challenged to stand up for their principles while being simultaneously challenged to get something accomplished. (A timely topic!) This one features Stockard Channing–who can hardly put a foot wrong onstage–along with Linda Lavin and Stacy Keach, whose records are more mixed but still creditable.
3. Time Stands Still. Another smart political Jewish playwright (is there any other kind?) takes a look at a family on the verge of collapse (is there any other kind?). Donald Margulies wrote the brilliant Sight Unseen. I know it was brilliant because I saw it in New York ; when a Chicago company produced it, the same script seemed coarse and obvious. Margulies’ works are delicate flowers and only thrive on their native heath. This one is certainly well taken care of: it stars Laura Linney (who created one of the roles in Sight Unseen), Brian D’Arcy James and Eric Bogosian. (If we’re looking for Chicago connections, Bogosian was in my entering class at the University of Chicago but escaped before it could do him any damage. D'Arcy James went to Northwestern.)
4. Promises, Promises. Kirsten Chenoweth and Sean Hayes are apparently so essential to this show that the producers are closing it when they leave, rather than trying to re-cast. Certainly they’re essential to my decision to see a dated musical which wasn’t a world-beater when it was fresh. Still, it’s based on one of the most romantic of Christmas movies (The Apartment), and how many reasons do you need to immerse yourself in Billy Wilder’s concept and Burt Bachrach’s music? One other, perhaps: it’s closing January 3, so the whole cast should be running on high adrenaline, like a horse scenting the barn.
5. The Merchant of Venice with Al Pacino reprising his heralded Central Park performance as Shylock. I was sorry to have missed that; but can I stand to pay the outrageous prices–$195 a ticket for side mezzanine? When you spend that much money it’s almost impossible to know whether you’re genuinely enjoying the show or just determined to do so because you spent so much money. The friend I invited to accompany me said she’d seen it and been impressed by Pacino, though she despises the play. It was worth sitting through once, she said, but not twice. May that be the harshest critique of any production!
Happy holidays to all, and to all a good show.
(photo of Time Stands Still)