David wrote and stars in the funny full-length sketch that aims for, but just misses, the lofty territory of great 1960s Broadway comedies...Fans will be pleased to know that David, a Broadway rookie, holds his own with seasoned stage pros in this solid production helmed by Anna D. Shapiro ("August: Osage County"), who is as good as it gets for shaking hilarity from family dysfunction...The best thing about the humor is that it's also unembellished and played without irony. These are just people, often very obnoxious people, lurching through lives and oddball dilemmas.
FISH IN THE DARK Broadway Reviews
Reviews of Fish In the Dark on Broadway. See what all the critics had to say and see all the ratings for Fish In the Dark including the New York Times and More...
"Fish in the Dark," which Larry David wrote as a vehicle for himself, is more in the nature of a well-remunerated personal appearance than an actual play. A thimbleweight comedy about two bickering brothers (played by Mr. David and Ben Shenkman) brought together by the death of their father, it consists of several thousand jokes, most of which involve somebody saying something inappropriate...On stage, Mr. David is a self-caricature of a self-caricature. I've never seen anybody look less comfortable or more physically awkward in a starring role on Broadway. It isn't a comic effect, either: He clearly doesn't know what to do with himself up there other than fling his long arms around randomly.
David may not be a convincing stage actor, but every word out of his mouth is funny. And he's even funnier when he's speechless -- falling to his knees and throwing out his arms in thunderstruck disbelief at the sheer absurdity of everyone else in the room but him. And to do him full justice, he seems to be sticking to the script (after all, he wrote it) and not giving in to any rash impulse to turn to the audience and start improvising...Helmer Anna D. Shapiro...has shrewdly surrounded her star with some of the best character actors in the business...to give master classes on how to time a laugh...Instead of sticking to a conventionally constructed plot, this "Fish" swims from one comic situation to another -- which may not make it much of a play. But there are plenty of laughs in the play's minor comic questions...just watch Houdyshell savor the punch line to this cynical joke. Give him his due: David is generous enough not to hog all the best lines for himself.
It has been a long time since Broadway had a comedy so flush with Jewish-mother jokes and giddy about finding synonyms for breasts. Many decades have passed since the sound of an offstage toilet flushing was intended as a sure source of hilarity...If anyone could get away with such a throwback, it is Larry David...But, really, the draw is David himself, full of trademark grandiosity and self-loathing, that oddly charming mix of excruciating self-consciousness and diffident selfishness...Still, don't expect a hip, retro, wry spin on the old-time formula. This is a comedy which, despite the occasional amusing twist, could have been written by someone who hasn't seen a play since the early days of Neil Simon...then there is David, an endearing, querulous beanpole, leaning back on his skinny hips and doing what fans have come to see him do, only with bigger arm gestures. Everyone around me seemed to be having a wonderful time. Wish I were there.
What, you were expecting Chekhov? Surely, even Larry David's most ardent fans weren't hoping to have their lives changed by Fish In the Dark (*** out of four)...A man who has found his greatest inspiration in minutiae...was not likely to try to bowl us over with depth...But the jokes do keep coming, and usually stick. If its humor can be predictably caustic, Fish's tone is pleasingly light and flaky. Director Anna D. Shapiro keeps the pace brisk but also knows how to milk a visual...The leading man is something of a spectacle in himself. David has said that he didn't plan to play Norman when he wrote Fish, but he rises to the task by, basically, upping his shtick for the back rows. Waving his arms about and sounding increasingly shrill, David can make Norman's social awkwardness rather too convincing...Perhaps the ultimate message, to the extent that there is one, is not to take life -- or death -- too seriously.
Fish In the Dark may be new, but its comic ingredients are classically aged: horny, old ladies, greedy relatives, philandering dads, luscious blonds and preposterous deceptions...David's contribution is mainly to be himself, the Everyputz he played on Curb Your Enthusiasm: cheerfully cynical, blithely petty and amazed that anyone should be offended by his honesty...Anna D. Shapiro stages the hybrid sitcom-farce for maximum shine, and the mix of seasoned actors with David's breezy script (about three TV episodes' worth of plot windup) results in a night of huge, rolling laughs. Many of them come from David's idiosyncratic presence. He may lack subtlety or wit but makes up for it in indignant bluster and humor that sidles slyly to the edge of bad taste...David is broad and hammy amid stage pros, but that's part of his gruff, goofy charm.
Very funny. Occasionally very, very funny. Four-stars funny. If that's all you need to know about Larry David's Fish In The Dark...then read no more...Or maybe not. I'm not usually one to put a price on art but you may want to know a little more before shelling out...for a show that's as good as some episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld. (If that seems like praising with a damned feint, you've caught my drift.) Of course in this case you're getting the added thrill of seeing Larry David shrug, blink, holler, wince, pace and blurt, up close and personal. As a fan of both TV series, I can understand the attraction. I'm with you. On the other hand, to sample an image from the show itself -- a dining table laden with curated paninis, baby micro-greens, artisanal bagels, organic crudités and Diet Coke -- the show is too much of a muchness...Through it all, and under the fleet direction of Anna D. Shapiro, Larry David pays Larry David, also very convincingly...Of course, this is the age of binge-watching, so two hours of shtick can be satisfying. Or give you heartburn.
"Fish in the Dark," the new Broadway comedy written by and starring Larry David, might as well be called "Curb Your Enthusiasm: Live" or "Larry David and Friends"...the bespectacled, balding David is playing the same sort of socially awkward, extremely inappropriate, befuddled, self-centered smartass. Hardly a great work of dramatic literature, "Fish in the Dark" hearkens back to the silly and insubstantial Broadway comedies of the 1960s, full of one-dimensional characters and nonsensical farce..."Fish in the Dark" is essentially just a showcase for David, with the other characters serving as stick figures for him to play off. Without him, there would be no point to the play. It would be casting someone else to play him on "Curb Your Enthusiasm." David's abilities as a stage actor are limited (especially his vocal projection), but he is nevertheless idiosyncratic, relatable and sort of endearing. You may not want to see him do Shakespeare, but you do leave the theater wanting to hang out with the guy.
In Fish in the Dark...David plays what we can assume is another version of his real self...The Anna D Shapiro-directed play...looks in on a family grappling with a tragedy and what comes after, something he calls "death etiquette". It's a topic that puts David in his element. Dealing with parents, sex, death and the marital strife that comes with it: it's all there, and at times it's hilarious...he has the ability to slay the crowd with a gesture: standing on stage, arms out to both sides in mock outrage, a colossal grin on his face...While the set pieces are concocted with genius, and some...turn toe-curling into an art form, they don't come sublimely full circle in the way that David's plots are known and praised for. The show is very linear, and some of the funniest and cleverest scenes are cut off before they can really blossom. By the admittedly exceptional comic standards David has laid down, this ranks alongside an average episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Indeed, Fish -- efficiently directed by August: Osage County's Tony-winning helmer Anna D. Shapiro -- represents something of a greatest hits set for Larry David and, for that matter, "Larry David." While he technically plays Norman Drexel, a urinal industry executive of some very sketchily sketched-in stripe, he is essentially reprising his Curbcharacter, from his outfits to his open-palmed gesticulations to his twin obsessions of sex and things that irritate him. The slight but morbidly humorous plot is also straight from the Curbplaybook...Fish in the Dark is most definitely David's show and this latest half-twist of his persona proves an entertaining comedy machine...If the result is only pretty good, Curb fans should nevertheless look forward to it with, well, enthusiasm.
BWW Reviews: FISH IN THE DARK a Blatantly Commercial Broadway Star Vehicle, not that there's anything wrong with that.
Yes, Larry David's Fish In The Dark is closer in spirit to a rock star's live appearance than anything resembling the emergence of an important new voice in American theatre, but once you accept it for what it is, the kind of well-oiled joke machine that put plenty of fannies in Broadway seats during the 1960s, it's a really fun night out...Directed by the overqualified Anna D. Shapiro, the evening runs briskly, despite the star being a "low-talker" with an aversion to cheating his body out so the audience can see his face clearly...it's the stage-savvy veterans who strike comic gold..."It's real, and it's spectacular" may be stretching it a bit, but Fish In The Dark is, at the very least, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good.
It's well built, occasionally thoughtful, and consistently very funny if not transcendently so. In short: You'll laugh, you'll cry - well, you'll cry when the Visa bill comes...for a playwriting debut, if not a Broadway acting debut, Fish in the Dark is amazingly confident and delivers what it promises. But it's got neither the cerebral gloss of Clybourne Park and Stage Kiss (to name two recent laugh riots) nor the solid emotional underpinnings of much older comedies like The Odd Couple, which is, after all, about men's loneliness. It's going for something else, and almost gets there."
David's play exploits human foibles - those silly, petty, mindless things that we think and do, like trying to find some real wood to knock on. In David's world, everything is a setup for his characters' self-centered behavior. With the stellar cast directed by Anna D. Shapiro, the payoffs are genuinely hysterical...He generously surrounds himself with masters of comic timing; Jayne Houdyshell, Lewis J. Stadlen, Rosie Perez, Rita Wilson, MaryLouise Burke and Ben Shenkman among them. Fans will be happy to note that David has the exact same whiny high-pitched persona from TV, hilariously kvetching all the way.
...Larry David's first venture into Broadway playwriting, Fish in the Dark, is a spirited throwback to that once hugely popular gagmeister's patented specialty: classic boulevard comedy molded to fit the American Jewish family. It's also pure sitcom, energized by David's customary serrated edges and willfully abrasive characters...Director Anna D. Shapiro...stages the comedy with an unapologetic endorsement of its retro roots. She keeps her foot firmly on the accelerator without flooring it...While David adheres to an old-fashioned Broadway model, he also lards the comedy with enough of his trademark brittle edge to prevent it from becoming too quaint. His liking for uncomfortable situations and annoying characters, unskilled in diplomacy, yields steady laughs throughout...David has never been an actor so much as an exaggerated version of himself, and that's exactly what's called for in a performance played in knowing complicity with the audience. His exasperated eye rolls, appalled double-takes and broadly physicalized reactions of disbelief or mock atonement are all essential parts of shtick that fits him like a glove, and his public eats it up.
What plays well on the small screen occasionally generates honest laughs on stage, though "Fish" becomes ponderous and ultimately feels like a sitcom episode tenuously stretched over two-plus hours...The humor is vintage David, and you either find it appealing or you don't; I thought a lot of the writing was lazy or boorish...This "Fish" has a tendency to meander. More than once I felt as if the comedy was hitting a brick wall, only to be jarred out of my stupor by a set-up that could only come from David's sharp, Sheepshead Bay-cultivated mind. Those moments are too rare. Among the fresher things about David's comedy is the endearing performance by newcomer Jake Cannavale...The young man makes the most of his big moment in the second act, holding his own against seasoned pro Houdyshell...Hardcore Larry David fans will get a kick out of seeing the comic live on stage. Most theatergoers, though, will be better off throwing this one back in the river.
David's first Broadway play...runs barely two hours, but it seems padded out, overpopulated (18 characters -- enough for a Shakespeare history play!), and funny only in spurts. It's great to see David, the star and creator of the popular HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm, taking a crack at Broadway. But for all the audience's indulgent laughter and the obligatory standing ovation at the end, one can't help but detect a certain, well, lack of enthusiasm...On Curb Your Enthusiasm...David proved himself a master of structure: weaving three or four storylines each week into a neat, 30-minute operetta of comic angst. With a two-act play to fill up, David has made everything bigger...Onstage, David is bigger too. His whiny voice and perplexed expressions are perfectly sized for the small screen. Here he has to project his trademark shrug to the back of the mezzanine -- hunching up his shoulders and stretching his arms so wide he looks like a seagull coming in for a landing at Kennedy Airport...for a comedy writer who practically reinvented the TV sitcom, it's surprising to see how clumsy and old-fashioned David's playwriting is.
Larry David's first foray into Broadway comedy is like watching a weird -- but undeniably entertaining and, God help us all, even potentially transformative -- fusion of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," Borscht Belt comedy of the old school, long-form improv of the Chicago school, and the kind of black situational farce associated with Joe Orton or other radicals with dark, anarchic souls and a taste for shows commanding premium prices. Well, that, and "Old Jews Telling Jokes"...To say that David looks new to the dramaturgical game ain't the half of it...So, David wrote a play that you actually could do without him (people will). And both he and the play go to some very funny places. Thanks to the plot being centered on a death in the family, and the ensuing fights over a Rolex watch and even an unexpected, illegitimate kid, the show has a life-affirming, or at least a death-cheating, quality...In its best moments, it feels as if David actually has succeeded in forming a new and potentially lucrative stand up-TV-Broadway fusion.
So here we have Larry David and Fish in the Dark, at the Cort Theatre. And it turns out the thing is an absurdistly daffy laff fest...Mr. David is once again playing himself in Fish in the Dark. Can he really by as objectionably cantankerous a being as the one he draws for us? Standing on the stage of the Cort, he sneers at his audience like a cartoon caricature of a bespectacled turtle cautiously sticking his head out of his shell only to find a smiley-faced insurance salesman; one suspects that underneath the persona, though, he is just an old teddy bear...The whole thing is in excessively poor taste, which students of the Mel Brooks school of etiquette know can make for high-grade hilarity...While the new play draws the same sort of high-octane laughter as the fabled Neil Simon comedies of yesteryear, it is closer in style to Herb Gardner's A Thousand Clowns or Murray Schisgal's Luv. They don't write plays like these anymore, no; but Fish in the Dark is the modern-day equivalent...Art it ain't; Fish in the Dark isn't O'Neill, or even O. Neil Simon. But it's funny, and it's boffo.
...for people who feel that it's enough just to be in the same room as an adored celebrity, this "Fish" -- which on paper would seem to teem with the comic tics and turns for which Mr. David is celebrated -- may well constitute a full meal...Mr. David has written a play that, four-letter language aside, feels like a throwback to the mid-1960s, when Neil Simon was king of the punch line..."Fish" gives us archetypes as old as commedia dell'arte and one-liners as old as the Catskills. But credible, breathing, present-tense characters are nowhere to be found....Broadway regulars like Louis J. Stadlen and Mr. Shenkman read loud and clear, in contrast to screen veterans like Ms. Wilson (as Norman's wife) and Mr. David, who tend to mumble. Perhaps in compensation, Mr. David has enlarged his gestures, providing semaphoric variations on his classic shrug. Oh well. The audience I saw the show with seemed pretty, pretty happy and gave Mr. David a big fat kiss of a standing ovation.
Larry David has no understudy in "Fish in the Dark," because he is the only reason you'd want to see this new comedy. If he's out, there's no show..."Fish in the Dark" gives us the Larry David we know, from the trademark blazer-and-sneakers combo to the curmudgeonly grumblings...But while the series is a twist on reality TV, "Fish in the Dark" harks back to the door-slamming farces of the 1960s and vintage Neil Simon...Brace yourself for misunderstandings, selfish scheming and the explosion of decade-long grudges caused by petty slights -- one of which involves, yes, the fish of the title...If only all of this were funnier...But there's also a distinct musty smell hovering above the proceedings, as if sex alone could still provoke titters...And then there's David himself, standing stiffly to the side, hands in his pockets, when he's not required to talk. That kind of low energy smothers comedy.
It's the pesky little things that make up Larry David's infinitely expandable comic universe. All those petty grievances and minor disputes, the slights and slips, the miscues and forced apologies -- so flustering in our own lives, so hilarious in his...This gift for stringing together minuscule moments of frustration and fury...is ideally suited to the small screen. On the stage, however, the smallness and the shtickiness are clumsily magnified, as "Fish in the Dark"...uncomfortably reveals...This is an overextended sitcom that would like to become a farce but settles instead for some hoary Neil Simon middle ground. There are laughs, to be sure...But stretched out over the length of about three and a half episodes of "Curb," the show huffs and puffs its way to the finish line like a geriatric marathoner wheeling an oxygen tank behind him. It's not surprising that David's playwriting inexperience would show. What is astonishing is that the production would compound the problem by obediently following David's lead instead of channeling his comic instincts in a more theatrical direction.
If you're wondering if you'll like Larry David's Broadway debut, "Fish in the Dark," you need to ask another question: Do you like "Curb Your Enthusiasm"? That's because David's new stage comedy is like his 30-minute HBO show, only stretched out over two hours so that what is usually a cringe-worthy appetizer on TV has grown into a tedious and self-indulgent main course onstage. What opened Thursday at the Cort Theatre will surely delight fans of David, the "Seinfeld" and "Curb" master of observational humor, who stars and wrote "Fish in the Dark." But it may leave others frustrated that a great cast, set and director were wasted...David stalks the stage like an overgrown, wiry insect -- a bespectacled Daddy Longlegs comes to mind -- as he stuffs his hands in his pockets or waves his arms around to sell his outrage. A self-satisfied smirk never seems far from his lips...Director Anna D. Shapiro keeps the action as brisk as a sitcom but this cold fish of a play would likely have ended up on the cutting room floor if it was made for TV...Talk about the one that got away: David had a chance to do something special here with a new medium and a game cast, but he chose to spin his wheels. He chose to go faux.
The Seinfeld creator and Curb Your Enthusiasm star's venture into new found territory at age 67 has clearly intrigued an avid public, but is the play itself any good? Possibly, if you want to watch a celebrity from one medium reprise material from another: a "pretty ... pretty" reference arrives late in the second act to cheers from an adoring crowd fully au fait with its TV provenance. Others may wonder whether so scattershot a piece of writing would have got this far without its physically rangy, bespectacled star attached. On stage, David's Norman Drexel forever looks as if he's going to teeter backwards, his notably large hands sawing the air for comic effect...The narrative moves on from the familial rancour that often attends funerals to a rampant smuttiness that exists in deliberately dubious taste...There are jokes about balls and boobs, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Gaza, the second of which brings down the house. But for every line that sticks...numerous others don't...Perhaps it's left to Fish in the Dark to suggest that this is our adulthood: one mean-spirited, sour gag or situation after another -- in which case please pass the beef.
From a brother-in-law determined to get his hands on the deceased's Rolex watch to a loud, tactless uncle, Fish In the Dark swims in clichés. Until a preposterous second act subplot involving the maid's son, Diego, and Gloria, the comedy stays true to life without ever saying anything significant about life. There are a few choice Larry David-isms sprinkled into the play...But it's hard to avoid the conclusion that if Fish In the Dark had been penned by a first-time "civilian" playwright...it would have been fortunate to receive a reading. The unknown writer would be told his characters are depthless stereotypes...and that his eye for detail...is firmly shut. Director Anna D Shapiro stages proceedings in a lively fashion...David projects his voice too moderately and adopts a wry, detached presence that would make sense if the material were more sophisticated. Yet credit must go to most of the 18-strong cast who infuse the play with a madcap spirit that makes the performance zip along faster than it would otherwise do.