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October 6, 2006

TT: Gypsies in our souls

This has been a busy theatrical week, and so The Wall Street Journal kindly gave me extra space sufficient to review four revivals, two in New York and two in Minneapolis.

For most readers, the big news will be the return to Broadway of A Chorus Line:

Is it time to start feeling nostalgic for the '70s? The producers of the first Broadway revival of "A Chorus Line," which opened in 1975 and ran for 6,137 performances, clearly hope so. I'm part of their target market, for I saw the original road-show production some 30 years ago. It was my very first touring Broadway musical, and I remember it with undimmed affection. Alas, I didn't see "A Chorus Line" again until two nights ago, when I caught a preview of the current revival. Naturally, I wondered how such show-stoppers as "Dance, Ten; Looks, Three" and "What I Did for Love" had held up. I rejoice to say that they're as fresh as ever--and that they profit from the sumptuous singing and dancing of a superlative cast....

Would that Eric Bogosian's subUrbia had held up half so well:

First performed in 1994 and filmed two years later, "subUrbia" is the story (not that there's much of a story, but you know what I mean) of five suburban slackers who spend their days and nights hanging out in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven, getting high and/or drunk and wallowing in alienation. Unlike the half-crazed freaks whom Mr. Bogosian portrayed with feral intensity in his one-man shows, their dialogue fails to ring true--it sounds scripted, not overheard--and the melodramatic hoops through which their creator puts them don't add up to a plot....

The news from Minneapolis, by contrast, is largely good, though I didn't much care for the brand-new headquarters of the Guthrie Theater:

I'm not an architecture critic, but I do spend a lot of time in theater lobbies, and this one didn't do a thing for me: The low-ceilinged public areas are dark, oppressive and laid out with irksome illogic. Rarely can there have been a theater whose interior was less well suited to the purpose of making its occupants feel festive and expectant. The process of getting from the street to the Wurtele Thrust Stage, the largest of the three performance spaces, is so protracted--not to mention confusing--that I briefly had trouble focusing on the revival of Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers that had lured me to town. Once I forgot the building and started thinking about the show, though, I very much liked what I saw....

Last year's Tony Award for regional theater went to Minneapolis' Theatre de la Jeune Lune, an avant-garde troupe with a zany sense of humor. Its off-center adaptations of the classics are performed in a crumbling turn-of-the-century downtown warehouse that the company has converted into a flexible, characterful performance space full of the charm that somehow got left out of the new Guthrie.

This fall Jeune Lune is presenting in alternating repertory its much-praised versions of two Molière plays, The Miser and "Tartuffe" (which opens Oct. 19). David Ball's hotted-up transformation of "The Miser" is so naughty that I don't dare quote any of the best lines verbatim, but the results are still basically true to the sardonic spirit of the 1667 play on which it is based. Likewise Dominique Serrand's staging, which is crammed full of baggy-pants mugging executed with the explosive energy of a ten-door farce....

No free link. To read the whole thing, pick up a copy of today's paper and turn to the "Weekend Journal" section, or go here to subscribe to the Online Journal, which will give you immediate access to the full text of my review. (If you're already a subscriber, you'll find it here.)

Posted October 6, 2006 12:00 PM

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