It’s time for the Friday Wall Street Journal drama-column teaser, which is a bit jaundiced this week. I reviewed three shows–the New York premiere of The Clean House, the Broadway transfer of Grey Gardens, and a Seattle production of Steve Martin’s The Underpants–and didn’t like any of ’em:
Sarah Ruhl is officially trendy. Not only did the 32-year-old playwright just win a MacArthur “genius grant,” but she’s making a high-profile New York debut: “The Clean House,” which has been staged at the Yale Repertory Theatre and numerous other top regional houses and was a Pulitzer finalist last year, has now come to town in a glossy production starring Blair Brown and Jill Clayburgh. As if that weren’t enough buzz for one human being to generate, Ms. Ruhl says she’s working on a new play about the history of…the vibrator.
If I sound skeptical about Ms. Ruhl, there’s a reason. It’s possible to be both trendy and talented, and I suppose it might be possible to write a good play about vibrators, too. I can even think of a few genuine geniuses who’ve won MacArthurs. But when all these suspicious-looking items turned up on the same resume, the red light on my Faux-O-Meter started blinking, which is why I wasn’t surprised when “The Clean House” failed to live up to its own hype. It’s clever–too clever by at least half–but scrape away the postmodern trickery and it’s nothing more than a soap opera for pseudointellectuals….
“Grey Gardens,” the cultiest show of the 2005-06 season, has transferred to Broadway, and though it’s been tweaked and tightened, I don’t like it any better now than when it opened Off Broadway at Playwrights Horizons back in March.
In case you missed it the first time around, “Grey Gardens” is a musical version of the 1975 cin