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GOOD THINGS YOU NEED TO SEE

John started going to the theater when he was in high school. His first Broadway show was Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” on December 18th, 1970. He’s been passionate about live theater ever since, especially London theater, where he’s logged in 22 shows in 13 days, a record he’ll be happy to break, as soon as the dollar improves and the exchange rate levels out. In the meantime, enjoy John’s latest rants and raves.

It’s January, and, of course, that means the shows that were rocking in December may have a hard time of it as it gets colder. So with that in mind, let me suggest you visit some of these shows real soon because your support means their survival.

First up is one mean mutha. That would be the current toast of Broadway, “August: Osage County”. It’s a better than average potboiler about one mean, nasty family in the Midwest, written by the author of “Bug”, Tracy Letts. It’s been compared to every major play written by folks like Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams-let me warn you here and now-it’s not “Long Day’s Journey” and it’s not “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof”. It’s a big, old-fashioned soap opera about the disintegration of the American family written in the slam/bang style of an afternoon soap, but with much better diction and much better actors. It’s kinda like “Dallas” with four letter words, or “Young And The Restless” with honesty and guts. The production is first-rate, the actors are out-of-this-world, and you can just imagine the film people who are just waiting around to snap up the rights and turn this into one BIG crappy movie with a gaggle of big name actors who are totally wrong for the piece. (Hey, it’s happened before-anyone for “steel Magnolias” or “night,mother”?) But this is advertised as a limited run, so get your tickets while you can-it’s not the Great American Drama, but it IS entertaining as all get-out.

I can also enthusiastically recommend what is perhaps Conor McPherson’s best play yet, “The Seafarer”, currently playing The Booth Theatre in what’s advertised as a limited engagement as well. It’s currently the best ensemble of actors on a NY stage, led by David Morse and a stellar cast. The play is set on Christmas Eve in Dublin, as five men assemble to play cards. They’re a disparate bunch, led by Morse as “Sharky” whose brother, Richard, is recently blind and not good at taking care of himself. Richard’s friend, Ivan, is a mess, an alcoholic, prone to losing things, like his glasses and his wits; Nicky is married to Sharky’s ex, and the fifth in the group is Mr. Lockhart, who has met them all before in one way or another. I can’t do the play or the cast justice-let’s just say I was enthralled and moved by this play in ways I can’t describe, and what makes it all the more remarkable-it’s been directed by the author, which is something so rare…when an author can distance himself from his own writing and STILL find the nuances..well, I’m in awe. Ciaran Hinds is a revelation as the devilish Mr. Lockhart, Jim Norton is a most believable drunken blind man, and David Morse…well, let’s just say I’ve been enthralled with Morse’s work since the little known film “Inside Moves”, and later, with the best television series of the eighties, “St. Elsewhere”. Find the time to experience “The Seafarer”….you will not be sorry.

Finally, there’s Tom Stoppard’s “Rock ‘N’ Roll, which boasts what is probably the best performance of the season so far, that of Rufus Sewell. His performance will take your breath away-it is so complete, so complex, so honest. Stoppard is a very strange playwright-I’ve often felt like I’m underwater when experiencing his plays-words swim by at a leisurely pace and you can’t be sure everything you’re feeling is real-it’s as if you’re dreaming. This play is classic Stoppard in that sense, but there’s a new wrinkle-Stoppard is indulging in optimism and romanticism by the end. I would try to narrow it down to a brief capsule version if I could, but I can’t. Let’s just say the play opens with an image of Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett, late one night, singing to a young lady in her garden, and ends, some thirty years later, with the same lady haunted by the experience of that one night. Sewell plays the man who could be Tom Stoppard-the Czech dissident who returns to his homeland only to find you really CAN’T go home again. There’s amazing work by Brian Cox and Sinead Cusack, and again, this is only scheduled to run until March. Please go.