On The Aisle With Larry

July 23, 2014by Lawrence Harbison


Lawrence Harbison, our very own critic, brings you up to date with what’s hot and what’s not in New York. This week, Larry tells you about

Lawrence Harbison, our very own critic, brings you up to date with what’s hot and what’s not in New York. In this column, Larry reports on THE PIANIST OF WILLESDEN LANE, ENTER AT FOREST LAWN, THE LONG SHRIFT, THE VILLAGE BIKE, OM, FORBIDDEN BROADWAY COMES OUT SWINGING AND THE MUSCLES IN OUR TOES.

The Pianist of Willesden Lane, at 59 E 59, has been adapted and directed by Hershey Felder from Mona Golabuk’s book The Children of Willesden Lane: Beyond the Kindertransport, a woman’s story of how she escaped the Nazis, travelled at age 14 to England, and became a concert pianist. It’s performed by Ms. Golabuk herself. She is an engaging storyteller and a brilliant pianist, so not only do we get a compelling story, we also get a lot of great piano music.

This one is not to be missed.

The same cannot be said of Enter at Forest Lawn, at Walker Space. Mark Roberts, the playwright, is a top TV writer whose credits include Two and a Half Men and Mike and Molly. The play is I take it based on his experience as the Executive Producer of the former, during the Charlie Sheen crisis. Roberts unwisely is acting in the play, as a monstrous TV producer. The writing is over the top but not without some wit; but director Jay Stull’s production is far more than merely over the top – it’s off the top of a skyscraper, going splat many stories below. Stull’s highly stylized, expressionist approach renders the play completely insufferable. Rarely have I seen such a wrong-headed production. Enter at Forest Lawn has rocketed to the top of my annual Bomb of the Year List.

Robert Boswell’s The Long Shrift, at Rattlestick, is better – which is not to say it’s very good. It’s about a man who has spent several years in prison for raping a high school classmate, who is released when the woman recants. He comes home a damaged man, determined to take revenge somehow.

The production has been directed by jack of all trades James Franco. It’s rather haphazard. It’s supposed to take place in Texas, but Franco’s actors don’t seem to be aware of that fact. A couple of them are miscast. Scott Haze, a frequent Franco collaborator, has a smoldering intensity as the guy just out of prison, and would have been much better in a better production.

You could skip The Long Shrift.

The following have, alas, closed:

Penelope Skinner’s The Village Bike, at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, about a pregnant British woman who becomes frustrated with her husband’s lack of sexual interest in her. Pornography doesn’t cut it for her so she embarks on an affair with a neighbor who has sold her a bicycle, who becomes increasingly bizarre. Sam Gold’s production was first-rate, as was Greta Gerwig as Becky, the horny wife.

Om, a dance show featuring Savion Glover, had a brief run at the Joyce Theatre. It was sort of a Buddhism-inspired evening of clog dancing, wherein Glover, wearing shoes with wooden soles, danced on a small wooden platform center stage, surrounded by many candles, to music which I take it was Buddhist chanting. About a third of the way in, other performers came out two of whom, both women, assumed lotus positions and remained in them for the rest of the evening, as Glover stomped away, to a most deafening effect. It was like listening to 90 minutes of someone jack-hammering a sidewalk right outside your window. Interminable, and just plain awful.

Forbidden Broadway Comes Out Swinging, at the Davenport Theatre, was Yet another terrific satirical revue skewering Broadway by the great Gerard Alessandrini which, sadly, didn’t run very long. It was great fun.

Labyrinth had a fine production, directed by Anne Kaufman, of a new play by Stephen Belber called The Muscles in our Toes, about friends at a high school reunion who try to decide what they may be able to do about a classmate who they think has been kidnapped by terrorists. Kaufman’s ensemble of actors was mighty fine. I hope you had a chance to catch this one.

TICKETS: 212-753-5959 x102
ENTER AT FOREST LAWN. Walker Space, 47 Walker St.
TICKETS: fuhgeddaboudit
THE LONG SHRIFT. Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, 224 Waverly Pl.
TICKETS: www.ovationtix.com or 866-811-4111
Lucille Lortel Theatre, closed
OM. Joyce Theatre, closed
45th St.
TICKETS: www.telecharge.com or 212-239-6200
THE MUSCLES IN OUR TOES. Westbeth Theatre, closed

For discount tickets for groups of ten or more, contact Carol Ostrow Productions & Group Sales. Phone: 212-265-8500. E-Mail: ostrow1776@aol.com.

“It requires a certain largeness of spirit to give generous appreciation to large achievements. A society with a crabbed spirit and a cynical urge to discount and devalue will find that one day, when it needs to draw upon the reservoirs of excellence, the reservoirs have run dry.”

                                                                                      — George F. Will

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who actually does strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

                                                                                    — Theodore Roosevelt

Who is this guy?”

For over thirty years Lawrence Harbison was in charge of new play acquisition for Samuel French, Inc., during which time his work on behalf of playwrights resulted in the first publication of such subsequent luminaries as Jane Martin, Don Nigro, Tina Howe, Theresa Rebeck, José Rivera, William Mastrosimone, Charles Fuller, and Ken Ludwig, among many others; and the acquisition of musicals such as Smoke of the Mountain, A…My Name Is Alice, Little Shop of Horrors and Three Guys Naked from the Waist Down. He is a now a free-lance editor, primarily for Smith and Kraus, Inc., for whom he edits annual anthologies of best plays by new playwrights and women playwrights, best ten-minute plays and best monologues and scenes for men and for women. For many years he wrote a weekly column on his adventures in the theater for two Manhattan Newspapers, the Chelsea Clinton News and The Westsider. His new column, “On the Aisle with Larry,” is a weekly feature at www.smithandkraus.com.

He works with individual playwrights to help them develop their plays (see his website, www.playfixer.com). He has also served as literary manager or literary consultant for several theatres, such as Urban Stages and American Jewish Theatre. He is a member of both the Outer Critics Circle and the Drama Desk. He has served many times over the years as a judge and commentator for various national play contests and lectures regularly at colleges and universities. He holds a B.A. from Kenyon College and an M.A. from the University of Michigan.

“It requires a certain largeness of spirit to give generous appreciation to large achievements. A society with a crabbed spirit and a cynical urge to discount and devalue will find that one day, when it needs to draw upon the reservoirs of excellence, the reservoirs have run dry.”
—– George F. Will