Off-Broadway Briefing

As promised, here’s an off-Broadway Briefing:

  • Avenue Q - full disclosure - I haven’t seen the show since it transferred off-Broadway; truth be told I haven’t seen Avenue Q since December 2003, before it David-ed Goliath, aka Wicked. (I guess, though, since Wicked continues to play to capacity - and on Broadway - Elphaba, Glinda and Fiyero got the last laugh.) All that said, I really like Avenue Q. My family - mom, dad, brother and me - saw it together and we all liked it. My mom and I are really the only theatre fans so the fact that even my brother liked it is quite an endorsement. Avenue Q is snarky yet surprisingly affecting for a show I’d describe as Sesame Street on crack, though I mean that as a compliment. One of my favorite songs is “Mix Tape” in which Kate Monster tries to decipher the meaning behind the songs on the mix tape her crush, Princeton, just gave to her. When, at the end of the song, Kate quietly says to herself, “He likes me!” I tear up nearly every time. Avenue Q is fun, smart and honest (and now that it’s off-Broadway, tickets are cheaper!)

  • Let Me Down Easy - phenomenal. In this one-actor play, renowned actor/playwright (and The West Wing alum!) Anna Deavere Smith portrays tens of people talking about life, the health care system and mortality. At times funny, other times deeply moving, Let Me Down Easy is nothing if not timely but don’t miss it because you have health care debate fatigue: this doesn’t take sides but rather presents thought-provoking testimonials that ultimately make you think about what kind of life you want to live. This is at Second Stage Theatre but only until January 3 (it’s already been extended more than once) so see it soon.

  • This - This is about this… and that, and that, and this, and that… While This elicits a chuckle now and then and includes an actor (Darren Pettie) who’s easy on the eyes, This is unfocused and tries too hard to raise questions is doesn’t bother to answer. The cast seems unconnected to one another - not so much like they’re in different plays but there’s just a lack of chemistry among them. Location and relationships are not well established which left me spending much of the play trying to figure out how the characters were related or where they were, rather than paying attention to what was actually going on. It’s a world premiere in a limited run at Playwright’s Horizons so it’s likely still being worked on and may improve in future productions (if there are any) but for now, skip this.

  • The Understudy - hilarious! In this new play from Theresa Rebeck, a stage manager (the peerless and always terrific Julie White) and an up-and-coming action movie star (Mark-Paul Gosselaar - yup Zack Morris! - who is very good here in his NY stage debut and also gracious and charming at the stage door!) assemble at the theatre for a put-in rehearsal for the understudy (Justin Kirk, flexing his physical comedy skills and trademark smarminess). While there are plenty of jabs and jokes sure to thrill the theatre cognoscenti, the dynamism of each character and the emotional states they see each other through make this a must-see for all. This Roundabout production (that means $20 Hiptix are available for those 18-35) is playing a limited run at the Laura Pels Theatre; it’s been extended once, but the actors have other commitments so even if it extends again, try to see it now to be sure you have the pleasure of spending 90 minutes with these three talented and thoroughly entertaining actors.