I’ll preface this post by saying I haven’t seen GRAND HOTEL at the Colony, but the coincidence is too strong: I received two unsolicited, and strongly negative, opinions from a pair of actresses whose opinion I respect within the space of a few hours.
The first was an actress I ran into while reviewing another play. She asked me if I’d seen GRAND HOTEL, and then gave her own review: “Horrible.” She thought the 90-minute intermissionless version excised any of the darker shades that made the original interesting. She did add that Michael Eisner was sitting behind her, and that he and the rest of the audience leapt to their feet at show's end.
“The Twilight Zone” is how another actress whose opinion I take seriously described her feeling of disconnect between the show’s quality and the audience’s reaction; her email was waiting for me when I got home. “Truly pathetic… like a high-priced high school production that managed to get a few really good actors involved with a really bad director.”
Ouch! She got specific: “The telephone scenes are blocked behind the columns, and the big love scene is played, standing, downstage center. I couldn't see ANY of the actors during the telephone scene because I was seated on the side, and saw only the Baron's back in the love scene. There was a perfectly good piece of furniture onstage that was completely ignored. The Ballerina's song involved her swooping about the stage flailing her arms. It was like watching the lower-ranked figure skaters at the Olympics.” So she was stunned, she said, when the audience greeted this with a standing O. “Are L.A. audiences really so used to bad theatre that something mediocre strikes them as great?”
The reviews have been mostly stellar (scroll down), I should point out. And we all know that actors can be their peers’ harshest critics. I was just too struck by this pair of non-recommendations to let them pass without comment—and of course, this kind of disagreement among theatregoers is exactly the sort of thing that will make me more, not less, likely to check into this GRAND HOTEL.
I’ll keep you posted.
UPDATE: In case you're wondering, I don't plan on making a habit of publishing unattributed negative comments about shows I haven't seen. I'll make the choice to do so--or to post unsolicited recommendations, for that matter--on a case-by-case basis.