Seat Filler: NYC Theater Guide for November 2010
BY Brandon Voss
November 16 2010 5:15 PM ET
The disappointing Broadway debut of Driving Miss Daisy, which sputters through January 29 at the John Golden Theatre, made me want to channel Carrie Underwood and scream, “Jesus, take the wheel!” There’s a certain delight in seeing legends like Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones join forces to squabble in Alfred Uhry’s quaint Pulitzer Prize–winning 1987 play about the unlikely decades-long friendship between a feisty Jewish widow and her proud African-American chauffeur in Atlanta, but these somewhat shaky, sometimes unintelligible stars don’t steer anywhere near the Oscar-winning 1989 film’s superior pairing of Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman. Though David Esbjornson’s no-frills staging can’t hide this cheap-looking production’s weaknesses, Boyd Gaines, who recently played gay in The Grand Manner, does impressive work as Daisy’s devoted son, Boolie.
A big flop when it debuted on Broadway in 1991, David Hirson’s La Bête, a Molièresque satire of the arts set in 1654 France, is enjoying a sparkling London-bred revival through January 9 at the Music Box Theatre. The play, written completely in rhyming verse, concerns a vulgar street performer who comically auditions to join a pretentious playwright’s royal theatre troupe. As the playwright, Elomire, David Hyde Pierce is — pardon the ironic pun — the quintessential straight man opposite Boeing-Boeing’s Mark Rylance as the obnoxiously spirited Valere, who delivers a jaw-dropping 30-minute monologue that barely pauses long enough for him to pass gas or give Elomire a sloppy kiss. The prince that Dylan Baker played with flamboyance in 1991 has now become a princess, which allows Joanna Lumley a glittery windblown entrance befitting an absolutely fabulous icon.