Seat Filler: NYC Theater Guide for November 2009
BY Brandon Voss
November 16 2009 1:55 PM ET
If you’re playwright Tracy Letts, how do you top the Tony-winning August: Osage County? Well, you don’t — at least not with his seriocomic Superior Donuts, which comes to Broadway’s Music Box Theatre following its premiere at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company last year. Michael McKean, much more subtle here than as a gay shih tzu owner in Best in Show, stars as the aging hippie proprietor of a dilapidated doughnut shop who bonds with his new employee, a black street kid hounded by smarmy debt collectors. Quirky supporting characters like a lovesick cop and a crazy lady named Lady lend to the play’s sitcom-y feel, but at least it’s a “very special episode.” As an extra treat, doughnuts from Doughnut Plant are delivered daily and sold in the lobby for $4 each. I totally ate two during intermission. Yes, I eat my feelings.
Direct from a successful engagement at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, David Mamet’s Oleanna opened October 11 at the John Golden Theatre with Julia Stiles and Bill Pullman. A two-person “he said, she said” drama about an arguably inappropriate college professor and the arguably opportunistic student who accuses him of harassment, Oleanna has inspired much debate over the years about which character is truly the victim. But when this play made its off-Broadway premiere in 1992 (a film version followed in 1994), the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill sexual harassment hearings were the hottest of hot topics. Its somewhat tedious Broadway debut proves less polarizing, rendering a post-show talk-back series called “Take a Side” pointless. Take a side? Gladly: Stiles’s student is nothing but a raging, manipulative, psycho bitch.
I’m not one to revisit a show, but I returned to the Brooks Atkinson Theatre last month to see the ’80s jukebox musical Rock of Ages, despite my disdain for Chris D’Arienzo’s weak, overly complicated book. (Note to Adam Shankman: When making the movie version, please keep in mind that we just want to hear the songs!) Why? Well, Kerry Butler, something of a gay icon in New York theater circles for her work in Xanadu and Hairspray, recently joined the Rock cast as Sherrie — just a small-town girl livin’ in a lonely world. What’s really cool about Butler’s casting is that it reunites her with So NoTORIous hottie James Carpinello, her original Xanadu costar before he infamously injured himself in previews and Cheyenne Jackson took over. As a bonus, gay Buffy alum Tom Lenk now plays Franz, the effeminate German.
Somehow I missed Made in Heaven when it played as part of the New York Fringe Festival in August. Luckily, Jay Bernzweig’s racy comedy has returned to off-Broadway’s SoHo Playhouse through January 3. If you thought the Gossip Girl threesome was scandalous, meet Max and Benjie, conjoined twins who share one large penis. They’re about to propose to Jessica, a heavyset Jewish girl with low self-esteem, when Benjie admits he’s gay and completes a freaky foursome by hiring a cocky bisexual escort who just happens to be Jessica’s ex-husband. Even at 90 minutes, the whole gag’s stretched about 15 minutes too long, but likable leads Kevin Thomas Collins and Alex Anfanger nail the three-legged race physical shtick. And as the substance-abusing man whore, Matthew Bondy is skilled at stripping and simulated fellatio.
The kids are not all right in Children at Play, Jordan Seavey’s challenging, satisfying, and profoundly disturbing new work playing the Living Theatre through November 21. Led by the striking Susan Louise O’Connor (a Theater World Award winner for her Broadway debut in Blithe Spirit), a group of gifted and talented students remains friends through junior high and high school. We watch them deal with eating disorders, molestation, bad parenting, and even the fallout from being a Chernobyl baby. Seavey, who previously tackled gay-bias crime in The Truth Will Out, also adeptly explores both the dark and the delightful sides of shifting adolescent sexuality with a masturbation sequence behind a backlit curtain, a revealing game of truth or dare, and a Sybilesque argument between two boyfriends played by the same actor.