Enough already with the leftovers–it’s time for the Friday Wall Street Journal drama-column teaser. I render summary judgment on two off-Broadway shows in today’s paper, Paul Rudnick’s Regrets Only and a revival of Suddenly Last Summer:
Paul Rudnick reminds me of Nuke LaLoosh, the rookie pitcher in “Bull Durham” who had a million-dollar arm and a five-cent head. If it’s jokes you want, Mr. Rudnick’s your man, and most of them are funny to boot. For a stand-up comedian, that’d be more than enough–but Mr. Rudnick is a playwright, and “Regrets Only,” his latest effort, proves yet again that it takes more than punchlines to make a play….
Hank Hadley (George Grizzard), a ruggedly handsome fashion designer who just happens to be gay, is incensed when the husband (David Rasche) of his best friend (Christine Baranski) agrees to help President Bush draft a constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage. Thanks to Mr. Rudnick’s jokes and the precision-tooled acting of his cast, “Regrets Only” stays afloat until intermission, at which point things get really, really stupid: Hank talks all the gays in Manhattan into going on strike, meaning that Broadway shuts down and nobody can get a hairdo. Curtain? Not quite, alas, for we have to sit through a semi-serious closing scene in which Mr. Rudnick whacks us over the head with his moral, which is that Gays Are People, Too.
I wonder whether it occurred to Mr. Rudnick that the second act of “Regrets Only,” in which gays are portrayed as playwrights, actors, hairdressers, caterers, florists, and travel agents, is itself a mortifyingly quaint piece of stereotyping….
Tennessee Williams is widely thought to be a great playwright–but not by me. Yes, he wrote one indisputably great play, “The Glass Menagerie,” and I can also see why so many people like “A Streetcar Named Desire” so much more than I do. Most of the rest of his vast output, however, strikes me as overblown and underbelievable, with “Suddenly Last Summer” locking up the booby prize for sheer absurdity. I’ve no idea how Williams’ reputation for seriousness survived its 1958 premiere, much less why the Roundabout Theatre Company has gone to the trouble of reviving what is surely the most unintentionally silly play ever written by a well-known author….
No free link. To read the whole thing, pick up a copy of today’s Journal and turn to the “Weekend Journal” section. Alternatively, go here to subscribe to the Online Journal, which will give you on-the-spot access to my review, plus plenty of other good stuff. (If you’re already a subscriber, the review is here.)