I reviewed two newly opened plays in this morning’s Wall Street Journal. The first is Little Shop of Horrors, a Broadway revival of the 1982 off-Broadway musical, now running at the Virginia Theatre:
I don’t mind admitting that I came to the theater with malice aforethought. Broadway, after all, plays it so safe these days that I wouldn’t have been entirely disappointed had this safer-than-safe cash cow gone belly up. Instead, it turned out to be a zippy romp, staged and sung to the hilt. Hunter Foster and Kerry Butler are completely charming as Seymour and Audrey, two Skid Row florists brought together by Audrey II, a jumbo Venus flytrap that dines on human blood. Douglas Sills is suitably slimy as Orin, the pain-loving dentist who snorts a little too much laughing gas and ends up as plant food. Audrey II is winsomely monstrous, Scott Pask’s comic-book sets are just right, and even if you don’t especially care for ’50s rock (which I don’t), the Howard Ashman-Alan Menken songs are genial enough. So what’s not to like? Nothing, really, except that the music is TOO DAMN LOUD….
The second is Craig Wright’s Recent Tragic Events, a play about 9/11 now running at Playwrights Horizons:
How did “Recent Tragic Events” exasperate me? Let me count the ways. For openers, it stinks of cutesy-wutesy postmodernism. Aside from that stupid sock puppet, Mr. Wright bashes us in the face with such trickery as a bell that rings whenever the plot takes what the playwright wrongly supposes to be an unexpected turn (David Ives, call your lawyer) and a chummy stage manager who talks to the audience (Thornton Wilder, call your executor). Stripped of these devices, “Recent Tragic Events” boils down to a feeble sketch about how four vapid sitcom-type characters are transformed by an unimaginable catastrophe. Mr. Wright, a graduate of United Theological Seminary who now writes for “Six Feet Under,” doubtless considers this to be deep thinking (the play’s epigraph is a loooooooong quote from Schopenhauer). I suppose it is, too–six feet deep, to be exact….
As usual, no link, so to read the whole review, march to the nearest newsstand and buy a copy of the Journal. “Weekend Journal,” the section in which my theater column appears, is well worth your while, with or without me.