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Showtime! features reviews, commentary and assorted theatrical musings from Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld.com's Chief Theatre Critic. To submit amusing backstage banter, absurd audience observations or noteworthy links to Showtime!, click here. Anonymity's guaranteed. My not taking credit for your clever remark isn't.


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Fare For All at The Mount Vernon Hotel & Poteet Girls


Several years before Urinetown's Mark Hollmann began writing satirical songs about the public's right to pee he teamed up with playwright Jennifer Fell Hayes to pen a delightful musical for young audiences about one of New York's lesser known cultural landmarks.  Fare For All at The Mount Vernon Hotel takes us back to 1830, a time when the city stretched only as far north as 14th Street and taking a trip to the country meant heading up to the wilds of what is now 61st Street between 1st and York to breath the fresh air, swim in the East River and enjoy a bowl of the world famous turtle soup served at The Mount Vernon Hotel.

Since 1995, Fare For All has had only one public performance per year, along with several private showings for school groups, in the hotel's auditorium.  At first I was surprised to hear that the performance would be nearly two hours long with no intermission, but the interactive show continually pulls all the audience members into the action and the crowd I attended with was enthusiastically involved throughout.

After director Karen Oughtred warmed up the audience by helping them practice their imagination skills we were introduced to the characters, all based on real people.  Living in the hotel are its owner, James Woodhull (Greg Maklin), his daughter Sarah (Clara Barton Green) and son George (played by an actress named "Zoe!"), along with their cook Flora Miller (Joy Kelly), a former slave.  Guests include Katie Stodd (Emily Marshall), a milliner trying to land a rich husband, and a demanding Scotsman, James Stuart (Maklin).  There's a bit of a plot involving Flora wanting to take a day off to visit her hospitalized son just when she's needed to prepare a large meal for an important party, and the strong singing and dancing cast performs with gusto, but the real fun comes when the actors use audience volunteers to help demonstrate life in the 1830's.  Naturally, we all learn how to make turtle soup, but we also get a lessons in the proper way a gentleman asks a lady to dance, the types of toys kids played with in the 19th Century, how to keep chimney fires burning all day and, my personal favorite, how ladies flirt with gentlemen using "the language of the fan."

I'm afraid it'll be another year before Fare For All is performed again, but in the meantime you can visit the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum and Garden and view the gorgeous period rooms.

Photo of Joy Kelly, Greg Maklin and Clara Barton Green by Karen Oughtred

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Okay, so it's Sunday night, you've got an hour to kill and only five bucks to spend.  You can either buy a beer and stiff the bartender (not recommended) or laugh your head off watching Leslie Collins pay tribute to the kind of folks she grew up with in her native Texas with Poteet Girls.  Directed by Erick Devine, Poteet Girls is a collection of monologues based on Collins' experiences growing up in a Dallas suburb.  The junior high school girls she portrays have some serious issues to deal with, including religion, absent parents, abstinence and coming up with the right routine for the talent portion of the local beauty pageant, but they're all handled with a gentle, realistic humor that's very funny while remaining sincere and affectionate.  Highlights include a collection of science fair projects covering topics like the church's stance on the history of dinosaurs and the ever-popular home-made volcano and a hilarious song and dance routine using a power ballad arrangement of "The Star-Spangled Banner."  And Leslie Collins effectively transforms herself into each distinctive character, including a smug male classmate and a chain-smoking grandma, without any costume changes.  She even gives the audience members free Girl Scout cookies at the end of the show.  How's that for class!

Poteet Girls plays Sunday nights, April 13th, 20th & 27th at 9:30pm at The People's Improv Theater.

Photo by Scott Treadway

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I just got word from Christine Pedi that she'll be performing her Nightlife Award winning show, Great Dames, in Johannesburg, South Africa.  So if you know any South Africans who are into impersonations of Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole, spread the word!

Posted on: Friday, April 11, 2008 @ 02:44 AM Posted by: Michael Dale


And if YOU Selected The Pulitzer Prize Winner...

Congratulations to Tracy Letts for nabbing this year's Pulitzer Prize for Drama.  Tell us what you think of the selection in our newest poll.

Posted on: Tuesday, April 08, 2008 @ 12:18 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 4/6 & Algonquin Round Table Quote Of The Week

“Everything I like is either illegal, immoral or fattening.” -- Alexander Woollcott


The grosses are out for the week ending 4/6/2008 and we've got them all

right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.

Up for the week was: A CATERED AFFAIR (81.3%), GYPSY (6.7%), THE HOMECOMING (0.5%),

Down for the week was: CURTAINS (-32.9%), A CHORUS LINE (-32.6%), SPRING AWAKENING (-27.5%), XANADU (-27.5%), PASSING STRANGE (-26.6%), CRY BABY (-19.0%), NOVEMBER (-18.4%), RENT (-17.5%), LEGALLY BLONDE (-16.4%), AVENUE Q (-15.0%), THE LITTLE MERMAID (-12.2%), SPAMALOT (-12.1%), CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (-11.2%), IN THE HEIGHTS (-10.8%), CHICAGO (-10.4%), AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (-10.2%), MAMMA MIA! (-9.4%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (-8.8%), MARY POPPINS (-8.0%), GREASE (-7.7%), SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE (-6.3%), HAIRSPRAY (-5.9%), SOUTH PACIFIC (-5.5%), THE LION KING (-0.8%), JERSEY BOYS (-0.5%), MACBETH (-0.5%),

Posted on: Monday, April 07, 2008 @ 05:35 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Something You Did & Two Men Talking

I suppose the main difference between a violent protest and an act of terrorism is whether you're on the side of the person who set off the bomb or the person who was killed by it.  In Primary Stages' premiere production of Willy Holtzman's drama, Something You Did, the person responsible for the bomb going off is played by the charismatic and understatedly graceful and eloquent Joanna Gleason, making the evening's morality conflict hardly a fair fight.

Gleason plays Alison, a character suggested by Kathy Boudin, who, as a member of the 1960s-70s radical movement Weather Underground, was involved with efforts to bomb U.S. government buildings in protest of American involvement in Vietnam and was eventually jailed for her part in a botched robbery of an armored car.  In this fictionalized version, Alison has served 30 years in prison for her part in the setting off of a nail bomb in Grand Central Station, killing a police officer.  Since that time she's become a model prisoner; friendly, helpful and an invaluable resource for legal advice, she takes part in AIDS counseling and has created a literacy program from her regular post at the prison library.  At the play's outset she's assisting a guard in writing a letter to help her get out of a traffic ticket.

Alison's past attempts at parole have failed, partially for her refusal to name her co-conspirators, but with the recent death of her lawyer father her case has been handed to his partner, Arthur (Jordan Charney), who wants to employ the help of conservative pundant Gene (Victor Slezak), a ex-lover of Alison who may have something to lose if she tells everything she knows.  Alison prefers to try and win the support of Lenora (Adriane Lenox), the daughter of the man who was killed.

Certainly the issues involving whether or not someone can ever "make up" for their intentional actions that result in an innocent person's violent death is the kind of controversy that good theatre thrives on, but if Holtzman's script leans heavily in support of Alison, director Carolyn Cantor's production ensures the fix is in with Slezak's sneering portrayal of the sarcastically self-righteous right-winger ("A neo-Conservative is just a liberal who's been mugged.") and the play's showcase scene between Gleason and the exceptional Lenox, where the prisoner, who placed herself on the front lines in the 1960s civil rights marches, humbly asks for mercy from the black woman.

A prison guard named Uneeq (pronounced as "unique"), played with an entertainingly blunt matter-of-factness by the singularly named actress, Portia, is the only character without a personal stake in the proceedings and provides refreshingly normal common sense observations.  It's during her scenes with Gleason, and in Gleason's simple delivery of a monologue where she explains the patriotism of her actions to the parole board, where Something You Did becomes less of a discussion of issues and more of a play about people.

Photo of Joanna Gleason by James Leynse

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Back in 1974, a teacher at King David High School in Johannesburg instructed her students to turn to the person next to him and tell a story.  A story about anything.  Paul Browde and Murray Nossel happened to be sitting next to each other.  Over thirty years later they're still telling each other stories; for over ten of them in front of audiences worldwide in performances of Two Men Talking.

Beginning with their shared schoolboy experiences, continuing through college and, after years of separation, finding circumstances reuniting them by chance in New York, Two Men Talking is a casual, semi-improvised ninety minutes where Browde and Nossel alternate in telling snippets of their criss-crossing lives.  At first the stories are rather typical glimpses of colorful relatives, harsh parents, getting stoned in college and discovering one's sexuality.  But when HIV enters the picture life choices take unexpected turns and the practice of story-telling becomes both a form of therapy and, when videotaped and sent to elected officials, a political weapon that accents AIDS statistics with memorable human faces.

As the two perform for the audience they are also performing for each other, continually trying out new ideas and freely commenting on the other's work; often making reference to how hearing one another's stories has affected them throughout the years.  Though directed by Dan Milne, the gents never appear to be anything but completely natural and spontaneously themselves.  The bare stage is thick with their mutual trust and friendship as they explore personal and dicey issues.  It's a charming and engaging little show with a sincere message and a good heart.

Photo of Paul Browde and Murray Nossel 

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As we all know from Richard Greenberg's Take Me Out, here in the U.S. the players on the championship teams of our most popular sports get specially designed rings to commemorate their victory.  And as we also know from Take Me Out, many of these rings are of pretty poor taste.

It's jewelry meant to intimidate and impress on the most testosterone-driven level.  For example, this article explains how New York Giants star Michael Strahan feels he and his teammates deserve a "10-table ring" (a ring that could be seen 10 tables away in a restaurant) after their recent Super Bowl victory.

Imagine if the Tony Award winners got gaudy jewelry instead of spinning medallions.  I think that would be cool.  I could see Boyd Gaines relaxing at Angus in between Gypsy performances while passers-by stop and stare with respect at his Tony rings.

"I got this one in '94 for She Loves Me.  Beat out Victor Garber, Terrence Mann and Jere Shea.  The big one's for The Heidi Chronicles..."

 

Posted on: Monday, April 07, 2008 @ 01:49 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


New York Theatre Trailblazer Joe Cino Honored With A Plaque

That happy gentleman on the left is the legendary American playwright Robert Patrick, and what he has in his hands is a long-time dream of his; a plaque to commemorate the life of Joe Cino.  Fifty years ago Joe Cino opened the doors to his Caffe Cino, now regarded as the birthplace of both the Off-Off Broadway movement and the American Gay Theatre movement, to playwrights willing to mount productions on his tiny 8' x 8' stage.  Among those who walked in were Lanford Wilson, Tom Eyen, Doric Wilson, Sam Shepard, William Hoffman, John Guare, and, of course, Robert Patrick.  Cino didn't even read the scripts.  Most of the time he would ask the playwright his astrological sign and if he liked the answer an opening night was set.  Musical theatre fans know the Cino as the place where Bernadette Peters starred in the original one-act version of Dames At Sea

The Cino location at 31 Cornelia Street is now the Po Restaurant and Patrick says the owners are happy to display this permanent tribute to a unique New Yorker and theatrical trailblazer. 

"It's solid bronze, weighs over eleven pounds, and costs seventy-two dollars to UPS!"

Be sure to take a look at the 59 pages worth of Caffe Cino photographs from Robert Patrick's personal collection right here.

And on April 28th The Greenwich Village Society For Historic Preservation will be sponsoring a discussion with Christine Karatnytsky, Scripts Librarian in The Billy Rose Theatre Division of The New York Public Library, covering the history of The Cino and how it has been remembered as an integral part of Greenwich Village's legacy to the arts.  Click here for details.

Photo by John Andruska

Posted on: Thursday, April 03, 2008 @ 12:28 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


The Fifth Column: The Mint Theater Brings Back Ernest Hemingway's Tale of Love and Espionage

When last we left The Mint Theater, that extraordinary collective of theatre archivists that specialize in mounting first-class Off-Broadway productions of time-obscured plays by still-famous names, they were teaching many New Yorkers that Leo Tolstoy took a crack at playwrighting once with his grim drama, The Power of Darkness.  Now they're surprising those who didn't know that even Ernest Hemingway was represented on Broadway once with The Fifth Column, which premiered at the Alvin in March of 1940 and logged in 87 performances.

As the roughly two and a half month run would suggest, Hemingway's tale of love and espionage does have its kinks, but the play still intrigues and furthermore gets a solid mounting buy the company's artistic director, Jonathan Bank.

While the Broadway script was heavily revised by Benjamin Glazer, The Mint uses Hemingway's original, which was written in 1937 while he was staying in Madrid's Hotel Florida as a newspaper correspondent during the Spanish Civil War.  The title refers to how Generalissimo Francisco Franco (Yes, the guy Chevy Chase was always reminding us was still dead.) had four columns of Fascist troops surrounding the city while a fifth column was composed of sympathizers in the streets using terrorist tactics to help bring down the government.  The action centers on Philip Rawlings, a counter-espionage loyalist staying at that same Hotel Florida, who feels responsible for the death of a young soldier who was mistaken to be him.  Keeping his mind off his conscious, as well as the numerous missions and interrogations he partakes in, is Dorothy Bridges, the smart, witty, Vassar-educated journalist in the adjoining room.  (The character is based on Hemingway's third wife, Martha Gellhorn, who was in fact also covering the war from the Hotel Florida.)  By night, when he's had a few drinks and needs someone to cling to, Rawlings promises the commitment and marriage that the morning's sobriety whisks away.

The plays major flaw is that Dorothy is little more than a prop – a tall, gorgeous, leggy prop – and it's to Heidi Armbruster's credit that she digs up some flesh and blood details to keep her from coming off as simply "the dame."  The same can be said for Nicole Shalhoub, who brings believable humanity to her underwritten role as prostitute Anita, a character that can easily slip into being a hot-blooded Latin cliché.

Naturally, Hemingway gives the men a little more to work with and it's Kelly AuCoin's subtle but attention-grabbing, steely-eyed performance as Rawlings that keeps interest high.  Continually at a troubled simmer, and damning himself when he shows emotion, AuCoin makes you believe the man's inner conflict of dying for what he believes is good or living a life that can make him happy.  Also making a strong presence is Ronald Guttman as Max, an agent whose face is forever branded with the ugly scars of a man who refuses to give in to horrible physical tortures.

A fine 13-member ensemble is granted an excellent physical production.  Vicki R. Davis' well-detailed set swiftly transforms to various hotel locations, emphasizing the war-torn state of the premises, and Jane Shaw's sound design helps define the atmosphere with far-off and nearby street sounds, including, when partnered with Jeff Nellis' lights, the regular bombing of Madrid.  Clint Ramos' period costumes define characters very well.

"While I was writing the play," wrote Hemingway, "the Hotel Florida, where we lived and worked, was struck by more than thirty high explosive shells. So if it is not a good play perhaps that is what is the matter with it. If it is a good play, perhaps those thirty shells helped write it."

Photo of Nicole Shalhoub and Kelly AuCoin by Richard Termine

Posted on: Tuesday, April 01, 2008 @ 09:20 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Replies: 1 - Click Here


Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 3/30 & Algonquin Round Table Quote Of The Week

I'm never going to be famous. I don't do anything, not one single thing. I used to bite my nails, but I don't even do that any more. -- Dorothy Parker

 

The grosses are out for the week ending 3/30/2008 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.

Up for the week was: MACBETH (15.3%), THE SEAFARER (11.1%), CURTAINS (8.8%), IN THE HEIGHTS (5.7%), AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (3.8%), PASSING STRANGE (2.0%), SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE (1.9%), A CHORUS LINE (1.4%), THE HOMECOMING (1.0%), NOVEMBER (0.3%), HAIRSPRAY (0.2%), XANADU (0.2%), JERSEY BOYS (0.1%), THE LITTLE MERMAID (0.1%),

Down for the week was: CHICAGO (-8.4%), RENT (-7.1%), GYPSY (-4.8%), CRY BABY (-4.0%), LEGALLY BLONDE (-3.5%), AVENUE Q (-3.2%), SPAMALOT (-2.9%), GREASE (-1.8%), MAMMA MIA! (-1.1%), SOUTH PACIFIC (-1.0%), THE 39 STEPS (-0.9%), MARY POPPINS (-0.9%), SPRING AWAKENING (-0.5%), CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (-0.2%), THE LION KING (-0.1%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (-0.1%),

Posted on: Monday, March 31, 2008 @ 05:11 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Juno: Encores! Showcases The Beautiful Score Of A Troubled Musical

With three different directors placing their marks on the material during its pre-Broadway tryouts and two actors who were not quite up to the vocal demands of the dramatic score playing the leads (Shirley Booth and Melvyn Douglas), Marc Blitzstein (music and lyrics) and Joseph Stein's (book) Juno, based on Sean O'Casey's Juno And The Paycock, limped into the Winter Garden in March of 1959 following high expectations (West Side Story had been ousted from the theatre to make room for it) and quickly closed up shop two weeks later.

But a failed musical isn't necessarily a bad one and while Juno is by no means an underappreciated classic, it's still an admirably ambitious piece that contains enough moments of true musical theatre beauty to warrant a concert production under more favorable circumstances.  The Encores! adaptation by David Ives restores some of the material which seemed to have been cut because of the stars' vocal limitations, but respectfully makes no attempts to improve upon the shows flaws; most stemming from awkward clashes between the warring factions of musical comedy and folk opera.  The work of director Garry Hynes, fully accomplished in Irish drama but making her musical debut, may be a bit static at times, but her commitment to presenting harsh stage pictures of the violence of the era gives the evening a raw authenticity.  It's a beautifully sung and solidly acted look at a later work by one of musical theatre's most richly dramatic composers and an early creation of one of its most accomplished in the difficult field of bookwriting.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in adapting Juno And The Paycock is that, like much of O'Casey, the play is not especially plot-driven, a vital element in the kinetic art of musical theatre.  Set in the working class tenements of Dublin in 1921, the musical opens with a stirring choral anthem of survival, "We're Alive," during which the perpetual violence in the streets during The Troubles spills onto the musical stage in a manner in which even post-West Side Story audiences were unaccustomed.  With the Irish Civil War as a constant background presence, attention turns to the home of the Boyle family, where mother Juno (Victoria Clark) is both bread baker and bread winner while her irresponsible husband, "Captain" Jack (Conrad John Schuck), spends most of his days at the pub with his buddy, Joxer (Dermot Crowley).  Daughter Mary (Celia Keenan-Bolger) has been turning down the romantic advances of her shy friend Jerry (Michael Arden) but soon finds herself courted by lawyer Charlie (Clarke Thorell) who comes with news of an inheritance for the Boyles.  Meanwhile, young Johnny Boyle (Tyler Hanes), who lost his arm during the fighting, is suspected by the IRA for having betrayed a dead comrade.

Though playing the title character, and the one with the most responsibility, Clark has little to do plotwise other than act as the strong, sturdy maternal figure, which she does with aplomb.  And though she sings with a hearty richness throughout, it's not until her final "Lament" that her impressive dramatic chops are fully on display.  Keenan-Bolger has a touching sincerity in her ballad, "I Wish It So," where she longs for love to enter her life and when she and Clark entertain house guests with the pretty "Bird Upon The Tree," it's a lovely vocal highlight.

Choreographer Warren Carlyle's highlight is a dramatic ballet led by the one-armed Johnny; a nightmarish fantasy danced exquisitely by Hanes with one arm tucked in his shirt, leading a male ensemble of similarly one-armed Johnnys.  Shuck makes for a boisterous and rousing Jack and Arden is sweetly charming in his one ballad, where Jerry begs Mary for "One Kind Word."

The original orchestrations by Robert Russell Bennett, Hershy Kay and Blitzstein sound lush and detailed with Eric Stern conducting the thirty-piece orchestra.  Even in a flawed musical like Juno, hearing a rarely performed score by one of the greats played with a respect for the authentic sound of Broadway is an enriching experience.

Photo of Conrad John Schuck and Victoria Clark by Joan Marcus 

Posted on: Sunday, March 30, 2008 @ 12:35 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


The Drunken City: The Big Appletini

You know those very annoying packs of young drunkards you run into around 3am or so while wandering the bar-stuffed streets of the Lower East Side or the West Village, trying to find the nearest open pizza joint or Gray's Papaya in a quest to carbo-absorb the evening's alcoholic intake?  The kind that insists on merrily prancing the pavement with their voice volumes set to 11 and their wits set at 3rd grade, so excited to be partying in the city?  Adam Bock wrote a whole play about them!  Well, maybe not a whole play… is ninety minutes a whole play?  But in any case, you know something…  Once you get to know these annoying brats, they're actually kinda fun to be with.  At least when the things they say are written by Adam Bock and Trip Cullman directs the way they say them.

Their new romantic comedy at Playwrights Horizons, The Drunken City, is about the truths that escape our mouths when alcohol loosens inhibitions and you're in the safe company of a stranger you assume you'll never see again.  It's the night before Marnie's (Cassie Beck) wedding and she and her bridesmaids – the also-engaged Linda (Sue Jean Kim) and the recently disengaged Melissa (Maria Dizzia) – are wandering about some fictitious part of Manhattan near Baxter and 2nd (????) happily loaded up on beers and shots.  (word of advice: woman in bar wearing wedding veil = free beers and shots)  They encounter Eddie (Barrett Foa) a tap-dancing dentist (John Carrafa choreographs his foot-work) and his buddy Frank (Mike Colter), whose dating slump since his last girlfriend dumped him is celebrating its one year anniversary.

After the usual formalities ("We're drunk!" "Whoo-hoo!" "She's getting married!" "You're cute!") Frank and Marnie impulsively start kissing.  Though she tells her friends she's just getting a little innocent action before the knot is tied, the pair suddenly slips off to get some privacy.  A quick phone call brings a sober voice, Marnie's employer/friend, a former marine and current baker named Bob (Alfredo Narciso), into the mix.  While Marnie, who has taken shelter in a church with Frank, starts confessing doubts about her future with the man she is steadily growing less intent on marrying, Melissa and Linda frantically try to get their friend safely home while Bob and Eddie have taken the introductory steps into their own mating dance.  Hurtful things are said, drastic measures are taken and with the morning hangover comes the responsibility of trying to mend the evening's wounds.

If the play turns out to be not especially deep, the evening is still atmospheric and flavorful; thanks to Bock's knack for writing in a wthened language that sounds natural and Cullman's talent for quirky realism.  The funny and frisky and cast, anchored by Beck's struggle to think clearly through the fog of intoxication and effervesced by Foa's innocuous charm, is an amusing and empathetic ensemble.

Though the production values may be modest, David Korins (set), Matthew Richards (lights) and Bart Fasbender (sound) create a terrific blurred representation of late night Manhattan with a reflecting black background blinking random rectangular colors.  And during those moments when one might say the earth moved; let's just say the earth moves.

Photo by Joan Marcus:  Maria Dizzia, Cassie Beck, Sue Jean Kim and Barrett Foa

Posted on: Friday, March 28, 2008 @ 01:42 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Vote For America's Greatest Living Stage Actor

Last time we discussed America's great ladies of the stage but our newest poll invites you to vote for America's Greatest Living Stage Actor.  Vote for one of the five selections or write in your own choice, as I'm sure many of you will.

Posted on: Thursday, March 27, 2008 @ 02:20 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback


Straight Up With A Twist: The Heterosexuality That Dare Not Speak Its Name

How's this for weird…  On Sunday night I saw a show where a straight guy spoke for an hour and fifteen minutes about how people mistake him for gay because of his interests and not once did he mention anything about musical theatre.  Not once!  If nothing else, I give Paul Stroili points for not using the most obvious cliché.

And I also give him and his solo show, Straight Up With A Twist, points for coming up with a handy new label, "Renaissance Geek," which he uses to describe "the botched attempt to romanticize the straight male."  Botched because nature's attempt to create a male who can attract a female with his sensitivity, taste in fashion and knowledge of fine wine has resulted in the kind of guy who is offered permanent residence in the friend zone while brutish, sports-obsessed, artistically inept males are favored for dating and procreation.

And though Stroili is in fact happily married to a woman who says he's like a gay friend she can have sex with, he calls himself (and me too, despite my interest in sports) one of the "men who know the wrong things."

After a brief introduction which brings up historical examples proving that Renaissance Geeks date back to the caveman era (they were the cavemen who know that you could drag a woman by her hair easier if it was in a French braid) Straight Up With A Twist (directed by Bill Penton) becomes primarily a collection of brief monologues about Paul told by those who knew him as the boy who lost interest in Cub Scouts once he finished building the spice rack.  It's an amusing collection of characters (his gruff mom, his soft-spoken Italian father, his guido brother, confused gym teacher, etc.) and he plays the assortment well, but the trouble is that his material isn't especially funny.  Jokes about young Paul's ability to fold fitted sheets, his ineptness at t-ball and his belief that Kate Jackson is the hottest of Charlie's Angels because she got the best set of cheek bones would grow tiresome quickly if Stroili wasn't such an engaging actor.

He's even more ingratiating as himself, and though his audience participation quiz show is cute ("Which NFL team's colors can also be described as sea foam and cantaloupe?"), Straight Up With A Twist is most appealing when the actor/writer simply talks about his experiences without dishing out the punch lines and just gives it to us straight.

Photo of Paul Stroili by Ken Howard

Posted on: Tuesday, March 25, 2008 @ 03:02 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Replies: 1 - Click Here




About Michael: After 20-odd years singing, dancing and acting in dinner theatres, summer stocks and the ever-popular audience participation murder mysteries (try improvising with audiences after they?ve had two hours of open bar), Michael Dale segued his theatrical ambitions into playwriting. The buildings which once housed the 5 Off-Off Broadway plays he penned have all been destroyed or turned into a Starbucks, but his name remains the answer to the trivia question, "Who wrote the official play of Babe Ruth's 100th Birthday?" He served as Artistic Director for The Play's The Thing Theatre Company, helping to bring free live theatre to underserved communities, and dabbled a bit in stage managing and in directing cabaret shows before answering the call (it was an email, actually) to become BroadwayWorld.com's first Chief Theatre Critic. While not attending shows Michael can be seen at Shea Stadium pleading for the Mets to stop imploding. Likes: Strong book musicals and ambitious new works. Dislikes: Unprepared celebrities making their stage acting debuts by starring on Broadway and weak bullpens.