Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Belles of Saint Veronica’s

Charles Busch & Julie Halston

As a birthday present to myself, I bought tickets to Charles Busch’s new show, The Divine Sister. It may be his best ever. At least it felt that way last night. He went back to his downtown roots to revitalize himself and boy did it work. Vital doesn’t come close to describing what I saw. From nun nonsense to Dan Brown to Anastasia to Rosalind Russell shouldering Loretta Young out of the frame, it does not let up for a minute.

At the first sound cue the audience roared with laughter and the decibels built from there. I suspect we may have moved the building on its foundations. Julie Hysterically Funny Halston and the rest of the cast (Alison Fraser, Amy Rutberg, Jennifer Van Dyck & Jonathan Walker) were right up there with Charles, nose to powered nose. No funnier cast is performing in NYC. You could light up the city with all the energy.

I heard a rumor that the run of The Divine Sister is sold out. Should this be true, the solution is simple. You need to use a little initiative and go down to First Avenue and when you see someone about to enter the Theater for the New City, mug them for their tickets. You get to see the show while adding to the ambience of the East Village. Or you can wait for the probability of a move.

In the curtain call Charles spoke about coming back downtown and what it meant to him and his company. At the end of his speech he dedicated the show to playwright Doric Wilson and then wished me happy birthday. There was HUGE sustained applause from an audience who for the most part did not know who the fuck I was. But never have I had a better birthday!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Feinstein’s Fables

Ayers Rock

And so the cobra and the mongoose sat down to rehearse their upcoming Broadway show when suddenly the grossly garish snake quite without provocation bit the mongoose on the butt for no other reason than the butt was there to be bitten. Whereupon the wee beastie feeling this pricking pain so close to his family treasure proceeded to bash the snake on the head with the Complete American Song Book. Whereupon the director yelled “Stop.” He had been staring wistfully out the window at a marquee being erected across the street proclaiming the arrival of The Addams Family. And so the director with a sigh stared at the murderous menagerie before him and wondered once again why he had let his agent delete the "no animals" clause from his contract.

Of Michael Feinstein, the mongoose, I know little. I think I have heard him sing and play. But if so I remember him as a sort of Uta Lemper, a crinkly carbon facsimile of an actual entertainer. I seem to recall my friend John Wallowitch had some choice if corrosive words that he would sputter at the mere mention of "fingers" Feinstein. I sometimes wonder why Muzak doesn’t sue for copyright infringement. Mr. F’s concept of an elegant piano man is strictly Wal-Mart when placed next to say the Tiffany class of cabaret’s true crown prince, Steve Ross.

Which bring us to the snake. Once again visiting NYC is Australia’s Mount Edna, the traveling version of Ayers Rock, another sacred lump. Billy Blackwell and I first encountered this invasive species Off-Broadway in the early 1970s. He threw wilting gladiolas at an empty house for about a week and then slithered back down under. While he was here he patiently explained to anyone he could corner how straight he is. In fact that was the only time he ever showed any energy, chasing innocent strangers thru the Village, forcing them to look at photos of his wife and kids. It never occurred to me at the time that he would ultimately become the media’s darling.

I deeply and profoundly disdain the Dame. And now the Mountain has once more returned to Manhattan with his new understated and self-effacing show called All About Me. Whatever Michael Feinstein might be guilty of, he does not deserve this hell. I suppose it makes perfect sense that an audience who cheers on the disintegration of actual human beings on Reality TV, is willing suffer sophomoric insults while waiting to be impaled by a gladiola. I only wish someone would borrow the Alaskan Moose lady's shotgun and punctuate this Australian landmark in his heterosexuality!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

An Artful Play

Cast with Chris Weikel (dressed as a grape) in the center

Last night the TOSOS Robert Chesley/Jane Chambers Playwrights Project presented a reading of Chris Weikel's new play Provenance. At the top of the play, a character significantly mentions Rubens, but the play itself is pure Monet - a maze of shimmering colors and incandescent flashes of light. It may be the healthiest and least sentimental gay love story I have ever seen on a stage. (I just heard Weikel’s Penny Penniworth may be coming back in the fall. GO! And then GO AGAIN!!)

Mark Finley directed a perfect cast: Timothy Babcock, Desmond Dutcher, Shay Gines, Lee Kaplan, Leicester Landon, Robert Locke, Catherine Porter and Tim Seib, lead by the wise and heart touching performances of James Nugent and Blake Walton. It is amazing how effortlessly Mark manages to turn readings into ensemble performances. Evenings like this totally validate why I stared TOSOS 30 plus years ago. And Provenance is the best 71st birthday present I could ever hope to receive.

PS - Check out the IT Awards blog for the next week”