Apr 19, 2011

One for the Tykes, One Not

A few weekends ago the three critic-dads and their progeny regrouped at the New Victory Theater for the latest toddler-theater offering from the U.K., Shona Reppe's Potato Needs a Bath, which I (and my just-less-than-two-year-old) enjoyed even more than last year's Egg and Spoon. If you've got a pre-K child in your care, I can't recommend this sly little vegetarian romp highly enough (the photo above gives some small indication of the piece's low-tech charms).

I can also heartily recommend Stephen Adly Guirgis' The Motherfucker With the Hat (though obviously not for your toddler). It's a beguiling comedy of manners, bad and otherwise, that burrows much deeper, and fires on more cylinders, than most new dramas do, and with startling dispatch; Guirgis' previous efforts have always had flashes of brilliance and extra-large helpings of heart, but they've also frequently been rambly-pants and gassy. For its part, TMWTH does have a few glaring missed beats and blind spots (the writing for the women is thin, to put it charitably, and a drunken, ostensibly violent confrontation scene late in the show is staged so half-heartedly it's actually confusing; it's the only lapse in Anna D. Shapiro's otherwise razor-sharp direction), but I wouldn't join with some of my colleagues in declaring Chris Rock's performance one of them; yes, I can imagine other actors "doing more" with the role of Ralph, an unctuous, self-justifying 12-stepper, but to Rock's credit, the role's jagged contours fit him snugly enough that he's made it his own. And to Guirgis' immense credit, there's real surprise and heat in his exchanges with Bobby Cannavale's sympathetic, spiritually questing lug, Jackie. And Yul Vazquez offers a matter-of-fact master class in playing an oddball without winking or condescension.

I'd also like to add that Anything Goes is a fine enough diversion, but the raves baffle me a little (what the f. is Joel Grey doing up there?), while both The Book of Mormon and Catch Me If You Can struck me pretty much precisely as the consensus would have it: The first is a giddy cartoon as smilingly sweet and even soulful as it is coarse, while the second is a lavish but frustratingly remote across-the-board near-miss (though I loved the out-of-nowhere big number "Breaking All the Rules," and I'm haunted by the self-canceling lyric: "Don't be a stranger/Tell him that for me").

No comments: