I was dark last week (as we theatrical types say), but pick up this morning’s Wall Street Journal and you’ll find my reviews of an off-Broadway show, Paul Rudnick’s Valhalla, and an off-off-Broadway show, Melissa James Gibson’s Suitcase, or, those that resemble flies from a distance.
I liked Valhalla, with some reservations:
As I watched the hijinks ensue, I tried to figure out whom Mr. Rudnick reminds me of, and Neil Simon came to mind. Mr. Rudnick is another one of those jokesmiths who keeps throwing punchlines against the wall to see if they stick, and his jokes, like Mr. Simon’s, all have the same one-two rhythm, only with a campy twist in the tail. (“What’s an orgy?” “It’s when vicious, depraved philistines have sex in a group.” “Is it heavenly?” “Yes.”) But Neil Simon in his heyday would never have put so ill-carpentered a play as “Valhalla” on stage, and before long I realized that Mr. Rudnick is more like a gay Mel Brooks, a Catskills comic who packs his scripts with good lines but doesn’t know how to tie them into a nice, neat plot-driven package. “Valhalla” goes off the rails in the same how-the-hell-do-I-end-this way as “Blazing Saddles,” having built up just enough momentum to keep you chortling through the chaos….
Any playwright who pinches her subtitle from the collected works of Jorge Luis Borges (no capital letters, please!), or whose last play was called “[sic],” really needs to consider spending a few weeks in residence at the David Ives School of User-Friendly Smart Comedy, or possibly entering a 12-step program for recovering postmodernists.
Even so, this eggheady comedy about two neurotic graduate students (Christina Kirk and Colleen Werthmann) trapped in dissertation hell and the boyfriends (Thomas Jay Ryan and Jeremy Shamos) whom they hold at arm’s length is funny, clever, and worth a trip downtown to Soho Rep, where it has just been extended through Feb. 28. The closer you listen, the more clearly you grasp that the highbrow badinage in which Ms. Gibson’s characters indulge is not so much self-regarding as self-mocking….
Would that you could read the whole thing here, but the Journal rarely provides free links to its arts coverage, so if your interest is piqued, trundle on down to the nearest newsstand or honor box, insert one (1) dollar, turn to the “Weekend Journal” section, and regale yourself with all sorts of cool stuff, me (I hope) included.