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The House of Blue Leaves- 1st preview


joined:12/31/69
How disappointing... I still stand by feeling the play is brilliant, but I think it is dependant on its production.
Gothampc
Broadway Legend
joined:5/20/03
"I still stand by feeling the play is brilliant, but I think it is dependant on its production."

I agree that the play is brilliant, but I don't understand how anyone can mess it up unless they have zero knowledge of comedy.

Bananas Times Square monologue, Bunny's Sandra Dee's Night Of Hell, Artie's "It really was comical, the pope wore a yarmulke", Ronnie's film career monologue, the nuns trying to see the Pope. The comedy is inherent, a director would have to work really hard to mess it up.
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CockeyedOptimist2
Broadway Legend
joined:1/10/10
Having seen it at the first preview and not having read/seen it before that, I have already forgotten Bananas' Time Square monologue and Bunny's Sandra Dee monologue. I remember the shape of them, but not exactly what they said. Probably not a great sign.
Gothampc
Broadway Legend
joined:5/20/03
^^^ I'm sorry to keep praising the previous production, but Swoosie Kurtz was near perfect in that Times Square monologue. Four corners, four people trying to catch a cab. Bananas drives up and says "Get in, I'll take you where you want to go." It was funny and heartbreaking at the same time.
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CockeyedOptimist2
Broadway Legend
joined:1/10/10
That's right, I remember it now! I'll need to read the play and maybe brush up on another production at the Lincoln Center Archives.
Gothampc
Broadway Legend
joined:5/20/03
Definitely read the play. It's so great.

I love some of the lines (possible spoiler alert):

Bunny: "Finally at 4 am, Annette Funicello gave Sandra the curlers out of her very own hair. Thus ended Sandra Dee's Night of Hell"

Bunny: "You witch, you'll be in Bellevue tonight with enough shock treatments they can plug Times Square into your ear. I didn't work for Con Ed for nothing.'

Bananas: "Bob Hope's ski nose was still bleeding"

Ronnie (quoting Billy): I didn't know you had a retarded son.

I think I've read/watched this show too many times.
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RippedMan
Broadway Legend
joined:8/14/05
I feel like Falco is a women of big stature. Not that she's "fat" or anything like that, but she's not a small woman, right? So it seems weird to cast her as this frail little woman, especially compared to Stiller who isn't tall or commanding. She seems more fit for Bunny, IMO.
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uncageg
Broadway Legend
joined:5/13/04
She's pretty short. Like 5'5" according to what I found. I don't look at her as being big in stature.
NMvisitor
Swing
joined:4/7/11
Hi. I'll bring a different perspective to the conversation. I am a long-time theatre professional, but live in New Mexico. I was visiting NYC with my family this last week, and we attended the first preview...row M Center of the Orchestra. For what it's worth, I'm 48, male, married, two kids (18 & 23). We were all in attendance.

We didn't LOVE the show, but we had a decent time. I would agree that in general the biggest problem was Jennifer Jason Leigh. She was more screachy and shrill than funny. It was as though she thought putting on an annoying voice would be enough of a character. And she's on SO much in Act I. In fact, if you don't know...Act I was almost entirely Stiller, Falco & Leigh, and Falco is onstage the least of the bunch, sadly.

I found Stiller to be okay in the role. I think some of the problems he was having will work out before opening. A few flubbed lines and not waiting for laughs were the biggest issues. Someone commented elsewhere that he didn't seem desparate enough...I don't agree with that. If anything, Stiller is good at playing clueless and put-upon...that's his screen persona. In this case, he's added a layer of unlikeableness (new word!!) that makes him a little less immediately engaging...but I enjoyed watching him.

Falco is terrific. Simple as that. She brought a clarity of purpose to her acting that makes her grab your attention any time she's on stage. She's certainly given more memorable performances...but she's pretty heartbreaking nonetheless.

Act II perks up considerably, with a welcome addition of a whole bunch of new characters, including some hilarious nuns. Alison Pill was fine, I thought...but no great shakes. I thought she got enough laughs out of her work, but she seemed a bit young to be the character she was supposed to be.

I thought the set was very effective. Lighting was sometimes dimmer than it needed to be (or actors were missing their spots). There were minor technical glitches, including the high school style classic of a phone continuing to ring after it's been picked up. Actors did have some long pauses that felt to me a little bit like they were briefly struggling with lines. But those kinds of things will work out.

My feeling is that by opening the show will be MOSTLY well-worth seeing. Leigh will likely not be any better, I'm afraid...but Stiller should be well-settled by then. Falco will only get better. Tech glitches should be non-existent.

Someone asked about the stage door: Leigh did not come out. Falco and Stiller were very generous with their time, pens and posing. Falco was gracious and took the time to actually respond sensibily to the questions thrown at her. A pro. Stiller even trotted out his "Blue Steel" on request for photos. The rest of the cast, including Pil, just breezed past and out. This whole dynamic is likely to evolve.

There it is, for what it's worth. A non-New Yorker's opinion.
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AC126748
Broadway Legend
joined:7/15/06
I'm seeing the matinee tomorrow. It's one of my favorite plays of all time, so I'm excited and nervous (based on the comments I read). I'm surprised, actually, that someone said the theatre doesn't have a curtain for the production. Isn't a curtain specified in the stage directions?
Noel&Cole
Leading Actor
joined:11/10/07
I saw this production last night and it was a big let down! This is every a revival shouldn't be. In makes no case for the material (and I think it's a great script). I have to chime in that most of the blame her lies on David Cromer. Just a giant mistake to play this show for the drama and not the comedy.

Ben Stiller was adequate at best which is really disappointing given his history with the play. I expected something special. Edie Falco is doing decent work, but I think those people who say she should/will win the Tony are very wrong. She's just best thing about a very poor production. She is a great actress, but it's not her best work by any means, We've seen her to better before. I don't think it's the kind of thing that will get rewarded not when Francis McDormand is doing her best work in ages in GOOD PEOPLE and Nina Arianda is giving a thrilling Broadway debut in BORN YESTERDAY. I think those are the two actresses that will be racing for the award.

I expected this show to be a really wonderful night and it just let me down. More than almost anything else this season. And hardly anyone in the audience seemed to feel any better.

The woman walking out next me actually seemed angry that they had spend their money on this.
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AC126748
Broadway Legend
joined:7/15/06
The House of Blue Leaves- 1st preview
Posted: 4/10/11 at 08:41am
I saw the matinee yesterday. Everyone who has posted thus far has been right--it's a dreadful, completely misguided production. The blame should be squarely set upon the shoulders of David Cromer and his need to reinvent/deconstruct everything. He has staged this play like high tragedy, instructing the cast to play the text as if it were the most earnest thing ever written. He doesn't understand that the tragedy, the pathos of the play comes from an accurate staging of the zany, quasi-absurdist comedy. That mark is missed in every possible way.

As far as the acting goes, there's Edie Falco and then there's everyone else. She is a nearly perfect Bananas, and it's ashamed that she doesn't have a better production for her performance. Her Act 1 closing monologue was chilling, alternately hilarious and pathetic, and completely harrowing.

Ben Stiller is good, but a bit too workmanlike in his performance. It's a very actor-y performance. Jennifer Jason Leigh is so bad it's comical. From the moment she makes her entrance, she's out to sea. Alison Pill has been directed to play Corrinna absolutely straight, which makes her scene with Leigh (who was playing it to the hilt) fall completely flat. She's costumed and directed as if she's trying out for a production of Evita. Christopher Abbott doesn't register at all as Ronnie, nor does Thomas Sadowski--but neither role is particularly well-delineated.

A major disappointment, overall.
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Patash
Broadway Legend
joined:5/27/08
The House of Blue Leaves- 1st preview
Posted: 4/10/11 at 01:42pm
AC, reading between the lines of many other posts, I'd say you are 100% accurate in assessing the cause of the problem. Having directed the show twice myself, I've been appalled seeing a couple of productions that were played as if the whole show was serious -- even high tragedy. The ending can only readh its full potential when the audience has been laughing their heads off throughout at the other silliness.

It's like the most painful production of Lips Together, Teeth Apart I saw in which I heard the director literally told the cast "this is very serious subject matter and it can not be played for laughs" -- duh, maybe the director never even read the script cover which clearly calls it a comedy?

I'd have expected much better from the experienced David Cromer, but there are some plays that just shouldn't fall into the hands of directors who don't understand the basic thoughts of the playwright.

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AC126748
Broadway Legend
joined:7/15/06
The House of Blue Leaves- 1st preview
Posted: 4/10/11 at 09:02pm
Patash, I think it really all comes down to the fact that Cromer is the absolute wrong director for this piece. He seems to be so busy mining the play for subtext that he doesn't really that it's already at the top--all you have to do is stage it as written. He makes a lot of stupid, head-scratching choices too. *SPOILER* For example, he stages the prologue after the entire audience has been seated, and since Ben Stiller is playing Artie, of course he gets the ubiquitous entrance applause you would expect. That totally negates the entire point, that Artie is fighting to be noticed by people who are too busy chatting or making their way to their seats to pay attention to him. Here, he comes off as the headliner that Stiller is, and it makes no sense. *END SPOILER*

The casting of certain people, like Leigh, is also mysterious. She's pure naturalism. She has absolutely no feel for a character like Bunny, who views herself as being larger than life. When you think of all the great actresses in New York who could have played the role (names like Elizabeth Marvel, Jan Maxwell, Sarah Paulson or Martha Plimpton, just to name a few) it makes no sense why she was cast.
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ooblogway
Understudy
joined:5/20/07
The House of Blue Leaves- 1st preview
Posted: 4/11/11 at 01:23pm
I feel like I am the only person who hated Cromer's OUR TOWN - and that is because I love that play. Again, I love HOUSE OF BLUE LEAVES and will not be fooled again. I'm not suggesting that Cromer is out to destroy these plays, although at times I've had my doubts, but I feel he's trying to ask people to look at these plays in a different light and failing at making his case(s).

Interestingly, I would have no problem seeing him do this to a play I wasn't fond of and wanted a different way "into" that play. AMADEUS perhaps.
Noel&Cole
Leading Actor
joined:11/10/07
The House of Blue Leaves- 1st preview
Posted: 4/11/11 at 01:52pm
I did not enjoy this production. I already posted about that earlier. But in light of all the negative reaction to the production, I wonder...is this production critic proof? Commercially speaking anyway?

Ben Stiller and Edie Falco are such big stars that I wonder if it will be a commercial hit regardless of reviews and word of mouth. What do others think?
April Saul
Broadway Legend
joined:2/17/06
The House of Blue Leaves- 1st preview
Posted: 4/11/11 at 04:20pm
I think it's such a tough time economically that they might not do that well...but yeah, on the strength of the names, I do think they'll survive their run.

Even with its flaws, btw, I found Blue Leaves interesting...but then again, I am not haunted by memories of some fabulous production in the 1980s with Swoosie Kurtz or whoever
Gothampc
Broadway Legend
joined:5/20/03
The House of Blue Leaves- 1st preview
Posted: 4/11/11 at 04:49pm
"but then again, I am not haunted by memories of some fabulous production in the 1980s with Swoosie Kurtz or whoever"

That's Ms Kurtz to you!!

I know it's hard to understand for those who haven't seen the 1986 production, but it was an excellent production.

One of these days, I have to find my video copy of it and then figure out how to transfer it to dvd.
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goldenboy
Broadway Legend
joined:7/15/05
The House of Blue Leaves- 1st preview
Posted: 4/11/11 at 05:43pm
It saddens me to hear they may be ruining my favortive play of all time. Again

I was a teen but I will never forget the original production with

Harold Gould,
Anne Meara and
Katherine Helmond.

Riveting. So much better than the Swoosie Kurtz, Baranski revival.

Ben Stiller is too young to be an old talent.
Edie Falco sounds right on the money.
How to you cast someone who is annoying as Bunny Flingus?
April Saul
Broadway Legend
joined:2/17/06
The House of Blue Leaves- 1st preview
Posted: 4/11/11 at 05:53pm
I actually know and like Swoosie Kurtz as an actress...my point was that the seemingly endless posts on the board comparing current revivals to previous incarnations are quite meaningless to those of us who weren't there!
Gothampc
Broadway Legend
joined:5/20/03
The House of Blue Leaves- 1st preview
Posted: 4/11/11 at 06:25pm
^^^ I understand. (But dang that was a good production!)

The segue between Artie's songs and the opening of Act 1 was dazzling with those neon flashing signs. (Dang that was a good production!)

Here you go, the amazing Swoosie Kurtz, Christine Baranski, John Mahoney and Julie Hagerty (spoiler alerts!!)



Link
Updated On: 4/11/11 at 06:25 PM
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RippedMan
Broadway Legend
joined:8/14/05
The House of Blue Leaves- 1st preview
Posted: 4/14/11 at 01:36am
I saw the show tonight through TDF. Row P, Center.

I was totally let down. This is such a great play. It's so theatrical, which is what I love about it. It takes risks, it's absurd, it's crazy, but it has heart.

I'm not sure where to point the finger. I think it's just a bad mash up of all parties involved. I think the direction is problematic. The opening bit with Stiller at the piano is played upstage, so we never get to see his face. I think, as an audience member, we need to see his face to see the desperation, and the sadness that's going on. But instead we just see his back and hear him play the piano, so of course people were cheering and yelling and hollering back at him, which sort of ruins the point of it. The moment that follows with Ronnie breaking into the house just dragged on and on and ruined any sort of momentum it had going for it. Then Bunny enters and from her first line, she was just awful. I don't want to blame her, I think she's probably a fine actress, but she's just so wrong for the part. She needs to be a CHARACTER. She needs to be this person that would say "Oh, there's a man in here." You know? It just doesn't makes sense.

Stiller was just forgettable and uninteresting. He just didn't DO anything. He wasn't desperate. I didn't feel bad for him that his life was following apart. Since I was bored most of the time, I had time to sort of ponder aspects of the play. And I got the sense that they are living in a house of blue leaves, this house of where everyone wants to flee, but I didn't get a sense that Stiller really thought he could get out this way, or that he could get roped into believing that he could do it. And I didn't see any connection with him and Eddie, or him and Bunny for that matter.

Falco wasn't bad. I really enjoyed her first few moments, but I thought she got less "zany" as the show progressed. Maybe that was a stylistic choice, but I like it when they always have a tinge of crazy hidden away. I thought she looked almost TOO nice in her green dress in Act 2, and her closing monologue in Act 1 was just awkward to me. It just didn't feel like a moment.

Pill has some moments, but come on girl, camp it up! Deliver those lines LOUD. You're deaf. This should be comical, but it got chuckles.

Design wise, I thought it was interesting. The backdrop made it feel almost like "fake" to me. But the set was very realistic. But why show all these different apartments in the building? Was it to show like a slice of life sort of thing? I sort of hated where the kitchen was positioned. I liked in the 80s revival (Which I randomly found on DVD). It let Bananas lurk in the background while the whole scene is going and whatnot. Also, the way it was positioned, I felt like actors were always upstaging themselves. Like, we missed a lot of moments because they were being delivered upstage.

I like Cromer, but I think he was just trying to add too much dramatic flair to a piece that doesn't need it. It's a strong show. The lines are funny, the story is interesting, etc. We don't need literal blue leaves falling from the sky, or the set to pull apart and show an "escape." Just let the material breath.

I don't think the audience liked it. It is a weird play, but it's played all the wrong way. I heard a lot of people saying "Was that a comedy?" I think the ending is a shock, and it's def. hard to pull off. The audience clapped while they were "embracing" so it made the ending a little more awkward. And a lot of people said "Oh, no."

I wish it well, but it just seems like everyone is coasting. The only hilarious people were the nuns. Ronnie and the movie director need to make CHOICES. They're just sort of dull and there.

I just think the show is doomed to fail with this cast. They don't have the legs to pull it off, I don't think.
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mmFan
Featured Actor
joined:10/13/03
The House of Blue Leaves- 1st preview
Posted: 4/15/11 at 12:51pm
I am seeing this play in June...4th row on the side. Am saddened to hear all the bad reviews. Sounds like the only positive comment is on Edie Falco. None the less, I know nothing of the play and hope to still enjoy it...even if it's far from winning a Tony. Am especially excited to see Ben Stiller in person (and hope for no understudies).
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bandit964
Stand-by
joined:8/13/06
The House of Blue Leaves- 1st preview
Posted: 4/16/11 at 09:16pm
the seats up in the teeny balcony aren't worth more than $25
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uncageg
Broadway Legend
joined:5/13/04
The House of Blue Leaves- 1st preview
Posted: 4/19/11 at 01:17am
Saw it tonight, well last night (Monday), and loved it.

First off, the Sandra Dee story got a big laugh this evening. Jennifer Jason Leigh was fantastic. She landed all of her funny lines and got laughs out of them. Falco was wonderful. If there is a "weak link" in the cast, it is Stiller. Because of how well written the show is, you know his character is desperate, however he only gave us flashes of that and by the end of the show you realized just how desperate. Thank goodness for good writing or the final scene would not have worked. I thiught Pil was very good also. The nuns were a complete riot.

After reading comments in this thread I went in with an open mind. 9I always do). Maybe they have tightened things up within the past few days but the show I saw this evening was nothing short of fabulous. Jason Leigh deserves a Tony nomination. I could see Falco possibly nabbing one also. her Bananas was played as if you weren't quite sure about her mental state. I am not familiar with the piece so this was my first time seeing it. I didn't even research the story before going. So I don't know if the character is supposed to be played this way but I loved it.

Loved the set. I thought the lighting was a little "weird" at times when they dimmed the lights at points and brought them back up. Loved the sky and the lighting. Especially at the end.

Again, had Stiller been better (My theatre partner loved him) it would have been even more dramatic at the end. (Which I didn't even see coming.)

They do have merchandise. I bought a magnet as I love the poster for the show and I collect magnets. As to it being a commercial hit, that is interesting as I saw about five people leave at intermission when i was outside. I overheard a bit of their comments and it sounded like they were there for Stiller and Falco and knew nothing about the show and it wasn't what they expected. Made me think that people will buy tickets for the names and that might make it a bit of a commercial succes but some may walk out. But the production will already have the money. I was in row J center on the aisle. After intermission I didn't notice one empty seat around me other than the two next to us that were empty from the start.

All in all, a good night of theatre and well worth seeing, in my opinion.



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vodkastinger
Stand-by
joined:8/3/09
The House of Blue Leaves- 1st preview
Posted: 4/19/11 at 08:33am
Also saw it last night and thought it was a fantastic evening at the theatre. Probably my favorite revival of the season I've seen thus far.

Ben Stiller gave a wonderful performance. Familiar and funny, yet layered and deeply moving. He was the surprise for me, as I was braced for distaste as I haven't really liked any of his film career.

Edie Falco was wonderful. Just an all-around lived in performance.

Jennifer Jason Leigh was just not very good, which is all that separated this from being totally first-rate for me. She just came off very mannered and not sure of when to play for laughs and when to play for the scene. Given the honesty of the rest of the production, she stood out like a sore thumb.

Also loved the design. Fantastic work all-around.

I am curious to see how the critics will receive it, after hearing such contrary opinions to mine on here.

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