And now we enter some unduly sensitive territory. In listing my least favorite shows of 2004, I must recognize that, though I will have seen upwards of 120 shows by the time the last calendar page is torn off on this year, that’s less than half the number of some of my peers. Many of the shows I’m sent to cover wouldn’t be my choice on any night of the week. And I’m sure there were worse shows on local stages than these.
All those disclaimers aside, these were the bleakest of the bleak for me, personally:
29 Things To Do on a Rainy Day: Based loosely on Chuck Mee’s bobrauschenbergamerica, this SOB Theatre production at Theatre/Theater was a haphazard hodgepodge that confused youthful curiosity with synchronicitous profundity—a forgiveable fault if you’re not charging admission and inviting the critics.
The Days When Cocaine Was King: This wannabe guilty pleasure, styled as a staged rock mockumentary, ended up inadvertently skewering itself on its own dimwitted petard.
Deconstructing the Torah: Circus Theatricals made an uncharacteristic lapse in programming this strenuously unfunny series of battle-of-the-sexes sketches, whose relationship to the title was, shall we say, apocryphal.
Dorian at the NoHo Arts Center: Let it be said that I’m in the minority, but I found this musicalization of Oscar Wilde’s novel ludicrous and bloated.
Embedded at Actors’ Gang: I know, this premiered last year, but I didn’t catch it until its brief revival this fall, prior to its national tour. All I can say is: Satire earns its right to be vicious and exaggerated by being funny. Nuff said.
Four Dervishes at 29th Street Theatre: Seldom has a play been so upstaged by its lobby prologue, in which Victorian explorer Richard Burton laid out for us a rich feast of historical parallels and ironies… and then led us into watch a muddled, often silly anti-war fable.
Freedomland at Sidewalk Studios: Amy Freed’s generation-gap comedy/drama isn’t such great shakes to start with, but this production barely made a single moment credible.
Mirror Mirror at 29th Street Theatre: Turning the Snow White story into a supernatural dumb show, director Debbie Devine managed to make even magic and evil boring.
Mixed Messages at East West Players: Cherylene Lee’s talky play about archaeology and racial identity was preposterous enough without the disastrously shallow lead performance of Mia Riverton.
The Oedipus Tree at Plummer Park: Tony Tanner’s underachieving examination of the pyschology behind the famous Greek tragedy played like Fortinbras without the jokes.
Robert Johnson: Trick the Devil at the Group Repertory Theatre: Advice to theatres casting the parts of musical legends: Get someone who can play and sing a little.
Shel’s Shorts at Kuttingroom: Based on these half-baked “adult” sketches, we might conclude that Shel Silverstein is best remembered for his children’s books and novelty songs, after all.
The Talking Cure at the Mark Taper Forum: Christopher Hampton’s staged teleplay about Freud and Jung offered little more than talking.
True Story at the Coronet Upstairs: Self-involved psychodrama about a misunderstood young man and the family that’s in denial about his problems, proving once again that therapy isn’t theatre.