By Catherine Wagley
By Catherine Wagley
By Wendy Gilmartin
By Jennifer Swann
By Claire de Dobay Rifelj
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Catherine Wagley
By Zachary Pincus-Roth
NOBODY DON’T LIKE YOGI(Lambs Theater, 800-432-7250). Yogi Berra, the immortal New York Yankees catcher, has enjoyed a second career outside baseball as the Oscar Wilde of malapropisms, spoonerisms and generally uncategorizable Yogi-isms. “It’s déjà vu all over again,” “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore” and “When you come to a fork in the road, take it” are some of the Möbius-strip phrases Berra has uttered over the decades as a player and manager of the New York Mets and Yankees. Alas, these alone can’t power playwright Tom Lysaght’s solo show. Someone should tell somnambulant actor Ben Gazzara or director Paul Linke that, while Berra is a humble figure, he isn’t a stroke victim. Then again, Lysaght should have given him something to talk about besides how fortunate he felt to play the game and how much he loved his parents. True, Yogi touches upon his bitter feud with Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, as well as a son’s drug problems, but not deeply enough to hold our interest; nor does he talk about his first meeting with pioneering baseball impresario Branch Rickey, or about the Yankees’ tardy acceptance of black ballplayers, or of the team’s wild boys, such as Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin. Mark Twain Tonight! this isn’t.
TABOO(Plymouth Theater, 800-432-7250). Boy George’s autobiographical musical, imported from London by Rosie O’Donnell, had gotten such iffy press that I felt lucky it was still running when I got to New York. It’s still there as of this writing and isn’t quite the turkey it’s been basted as by some critics. No worse than Rentor Hedwig, it’s another fable of bohemian corruption, via the careers of Culture Club crooner George (nicely played by Euan Morton) and performance-art legend Leigh Bowery (George O’Dowd, a.k.a. Boy George). While Mike Nichols and Bobby Pearce’s extravagant costumes (a mix of hyperpunk and New Romantic fluffery) hold our attention, the twin stories of Boy George and Bowery, along with the presence of five other major characters, considerably diffuse the evening’s focus. Playwright Charles Busch translated Mark Davies’ original book into American, which may also account for some of the show’s lack of visceral punch, but the fact remains that the Broadway musical is an inherently conservative medium of storytelling that will always make the edgiest history sound like a network-TV movie of the week. Suffice to say, the production’s Hallmark-y orchestration, which features both old Culture Club tunes and original music and lyrics by Boy George, comes with plenty of strings attached.
THE RETREAT FROM MOSCOW(Booth Theater, 800-432-7250). A good cast and Daniel Sullivan’s sensitive direction barely compensate for an inchoate second act and British playwright William Nicholson’s nattering about filial devotion. Edward (John Lithgow) is a high school teacher who’s recently become enamored with the history of Napoleon’s devastating withdrawal from Russia during the winter of 1812. The retreat’s Darwinian lessons about survival versus loyalty form the metaphor used to organize this story about a disintegrating marriage — a metaphor that Nicholson (Shadowlands) would probably do better to spend less time belaboring in favor of plot development. Still, he displays a painfully keen understanding of the frailties of relationships, and his play occasionally sparkles with erudite repartee. Eileen Atkins, who plays Edward’s wife, Alice, is the main reason to see this production — her portrayal of a romantic and somewhat manic woman being tossed aside, late in life, for another is a wrenching study in pathos.
WONDERFUL TOWN(Al Hirschfeld Theater, 800-432-7250). Talk about chestnuts roasting on an open fire — this gotta-see revival of the 1953 Comden-and-Green musical, scored by Leonard Bernstein, is one of a few surprise hits that have lifted up the dragging tail end of a wan year for Broadway. Based on the play My Sister Eileen, it’s a Depression-era homage to a cartoony Greenwich Village of painters, zoot-suiters and other Runyonesque characters. The story involves two sisters from Ohio who have come to the big city seeking fame and fortune, and this production, directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, revels in the narrative’s sheer hokiness while never condescending to its appeal. Its opening number, “Christopher Street,” in which a group of tourists are guided through picaresque sights, resembles its counterpart tune in The Producers — a thrilling, nostalgic evocation of an unapologetically imaginary New York. Donna Murphy stars as big sister Ruth and brings all the sassy charm necessary to launch the show into the winner’s circle, even though the story does seem to trail off and then end rather abruptly.
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