Book or no book, I remain the drama critic of The Wall Street Journal, in which capacity I went to see Twentieth Century, which opened last night, and wrote about it for this morning’s paper. It’s very uneven, and Alec Baldwin is the opposite of funny, but I did have some good things to report. Here are two:
A passenger train is a perfect setting for a comedy but difficult and expensive to put on stage, so I’ll start by assuring you that John Lee Beatty, the designer of this Roundabout Theatre Company production, has done a good job of evoking the streamlined art-deco interior of the old Twentieth Century Limited. Mr. Beatty’s set slides from side to side in order to reveal more of the train’s interior (as well as suggesting its forward motion), and while it won’t make you fall down dead with astonishment, it’s quite sufficiently nifty.
Anne Heche, on the other hand, is a whole lot more than nifty–she’s dynamite on a stick. Dolled up to the max in William Ivey Long’s slinky period costumes, she looks like a blonde clothespin in a black pantsuit, flinging her miraculously flexible arms and legs around the stage as if they were made of some space-age equivalent of rubber and tossing off her lines in the kind of hoity-toity finishing-school accent you learn from a Hollywood diction coach. She’s doing Katharine Hepburn, of course, but her Kate the Great is more a manic caricature than a slavish imitation, and so unabashedly gleeful that only a sourpuss would do anything other than giggle. Walter Bobbie, the director, has given her plenty of tricky moves, and she makes the absolute most of them, revealing an unsuspected gift for physical comedy. I won’t say Ms. Heche is worth the price of the ticket all by herself, but she sure did make me laugh….
No link, so if you want to read the rest of the story, go buy a Journal. A dollar is a dollar.
In other news, I’m still working on the Balanchine book, it’s still due on April 1, it’s still going well, and I may post another snippet of it tonight. Watch this space for details.