Thomas Jay Ryan and Christina Kirk in Suitcase(Photo © David Gochfeld)
Thomas Jay Ryan and Christina Kirk in Suitcase
(Photo © David Gochfeld)
Contrary to popular belief, we don't agree about everything we see. For instance, our views of the Melissa James Gibson play Suitcase at the Soho Rep are almost diametrically opposed. As far as Barbara is concerned, this work by the author of [sic] is intellectually satisfying and entertaining, while Scott finds it pretentious and irritating. Which one of us is right? You are, of course, the final arbiter. But until you decide for yourself, we'll just duke it out here for a few paragraphs:

BARBARA: Everything about this play works. Start with the highly theatrical set design by Louisa Thompson, with the two female leads sitting high atop precarious towers that represent their isolated urban lives. Then marvel at the purposefully reductive dialogue that is constantly misunderstood by the people for whom it's intended -- though hopefully not by the audience or Scott. Post-modern alienation is on display here as the characters communicate on telephones, through intercoms, and even through closed doors but almost never face to face.

SCOTT: Sounds like a great play -- on paper. For me, however, very little in Suitcase worked. Sure, the set is provocative, but I ultimately found it distracting because I spent too much time worrying about the safety of the actors teetering upon those towers. And intellectual content be damned: The sitcom device of having a friend on the other end of the phone thinking that what is being said into an apartment intercom is actually meant for her ears is relentlessly overdone in this play. And while it's true that, in real life, people talk with a certain lack of specificity that can lead to confusion, in a play I prefer to listen closely to dialogue for meaning -- not for lack of meaning.

BARBARA: I think Scott is not so much missing the point as simply not enjoying the means by which the playwright is making her point. These are alienated characters. In addition, the disposable nature of our modern existence is poignantly -- as well as comically -- rendered when we learn that one of the characters has been writing her dissertation about people's lives as seen through their garbage. Her best friend is no less alienated as she finds her solace in the whirl of people she sees outside her window. It's instructive, as well, that neither of these women are so outwardly lonely that they lack friendship (with each other) and boyfriends.

SCOTT: I get all of that. Thank you for conceding that I'm not a dolt! Gibson's highly stylized approach to the material is very hip but, except for the very fine performances of all four actors in the piece -- Christina Kirk, Thomas Jay Ryan, Jeremy Shamos, and Colleen Werthmann -- I was put off by the play's intellectual pretentions at the expense of a more realistic portrayal of contemporary twentysomethings.

BARBARA: I hate it when he gets the last word. Ignore him. Suitcase is a smart and worthy follow-up to [sic].

********************

Dee Dee Bridgewater
Dee Dee Bridgewater
They Like Their Jazz Au Bar

There's a new, ultra-swanky jazz club in New York City called Le Jazz Au Bar. The room was christened and set sail into the city's nightlife last Tuesday with Dee Dee Bridgewater performing her Kurt Weill show as its opening act.

This is a significant development in the jazz world because now the East Side has a large (175 seating capacity), upscale room that serves food; the club complements, if not competes with, Birdland on the West Side. Le Jazz Au Bar is more atmospheric (read: more expensive) than Birdland but, in terms of the menu, you get what you pay for. Happily, the club -- located on East 58th Street between Park and Madison -- offers a wide range of choices from a hamburger deluxe right up to several varieties of caviar.

The new club's sound system seems first-rate but sightlines are going to be an issue if you're not seated ringside; there are pillars aplenty to negotiate, so keep that in mind if you make a reservation. Bridgewater's show runs through this Saturday and will be followed by a series of short bookings including Marlena Shaw (February 11-14), the George Shearing Trio (February 18-21), and Eddie Palmieri and David Sanchez (February 24- 27).

********************

Christine Andreas(Photo © Michael Portantiere)
Christine Andreas
(Photo © Michael Portantiere)
Smart Set

For a classic nightclub experience, complete with beauty and exquisite musicality, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better show than the one that Christine Andreas is now putting on at the Café Carlyle. Based on her critically acclaimed CD of the same title, The Carlyle Set stars the gorgeous, twice-Tony-nominated Andreas and features a carefully chosen selection of great American standards, stylishly arranged by Lee Musiker.

There were a few sound glitches during the opening night performance but Andreas simply and smoothly adapted without making an issue of them. Poised and perfect, she offered a delicate rendition of "My Funny Valentine," a sexy and assertive "Bewitched," and a delightfully charming and buoyant "What if We Went to Italy." These are just a few of the show's most winning moments. Andreas continues at the Café Carlyle through February 28.

********************

[To contact the Siegels directly, e-mail them at siegelentertainment@msn.com.]