En route, I stopped in Mystic, Connecticut, where I sauntered into one of the quaint shops. There I saw one of those quintessential New England samplers that offered a poem I hadn't encountered in years -- the one that goes, "Monday's child is fair of face, Tuesday's child is full of grace / Wednesday's child is full of woe, Thursday's child has far to go / Friday's child is loving and giving, Saturday's child works hard for a living / And the child that is born on the Sabbath day is bonny and blithe and good and gay." Hmm, I thought: Could this be true of the plays I'd seen in the previous week?
Monday's child is fair of face. Well, I did find this to be accurate when I dropped in on Naked Boys Singing. The young men in the show were fair of face, and those faces looked extremely at ease even though they were atop bodies that were running around completely nude. I'd never played the original cast album so I was surprised to find that there's a lovely song in the second act called "Nothin' but the Radio On," which I hummed for the rest of the week.
Yes, I know, people don't go to Naked Boys Singing to look at faces or remember songs. So I'll report on what's expected. Interesting that the genitalia of the eight were amazingly the same. That made me wonder if the director had actually cast the show with this in mind. You know how Zach in A Chorus Line kept telling us that he needed absolute uniformity in his ensemble? Maybe director Robert Schrock took that advice to heart -- and other places, too.
Tuesday's child is full of grace. Well, I wouldn't quite say that of Ray Liotta, who was quite an ungraceful grown child (at least for a while) in Match; but I sure would say it of Frank Langella, who was a very graceful man-child of sorts. Both were terrific in Stephen Belber's play and Jane Adams wasn't a whit behind them. I'm not going to say more about the script because it's too easy a play to give away; I believed I'd figured out the whole thing during intermission and didn't turn out to be wrong. Still, the show has a nice message and is worth seeing.
Wednesday's child is full of woe. Indeed, for in Frozen, Swoosie Kurtz broke an audience's heart as a mother whose daughter is abducted, forcing the lady to wonder for 10 full years if her child will someday return. Kurtz was marvelous in a moment that also showed me that playwright Bryony Lavery had sure done her homework, for she'd included the detail that missing children are more likely to call their parents on their own birthdays than on any other day of the year because they get sentimental. Kurtz showed the hope that a victimized mother has as such a birthday approaches, the tension she feels during the entire day while waiting for the phone to ring, and her profound sadness when the day is finally over and no call has come.
I spoke to Kurtz and asked her how she came to do the show. "I was sent the play last summer, just to read," she said before pointedly adding, "They weren't making me an offer." I told her that this surprised me for I would have thought they'd consider themselves lucky to get Swoosie Kurtz. "One would think that, wouldn't one?" she replied, not in rancor but in astonishment. I mean, we are talking about a small Off-Broadway production and Kurtz is the owner of two Tonys. "It just gets harder and harder to get roles," she continued, "and my agent actually told me I might have to fight to get this." She shook her head: "It's so discouraging."
"Seven million people wish they were you," I told her, though I believe that's a conservative estimate. She immediately brightened and said, "I should have you around more often to remind me of how lucky I am." What I almost added was, "Didn't you do Fifth of July with Christopher Reeve?" I think that's something we all have to ask ourselves when any of us feels that he's a child of woe: What is Christopher Reeve doing right this very minute?
Thursday's child has far to go. I'm afraid that turned out to be true for Eric Stoltz in Sly Fox; the actor seemed so unsure of what he was doing. Could this possibly have been a production that had already had a pre-Broadway tryout in Boston? Stoltz's performance resembled one that you'd see at a first preview -- nay, at an invited dress. Will the show will run long enough for him to get himself in gear?
But the wonderful thing about Sly Fox is that -- just like Follies, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and 70, Girls, 70 -- it's an Old Pro Show, one that gives venerable actors meaty roles in which they can strut their stuff. And speaking of strutting, René Auberjonois walks like a pantalone in a commedia throughout the show. How wonderful, too, that Bob Dishy is back in his old role as a maniacally jealous husband, for he's really more right for it now that he's a quarter-century older. This baggy-eyed actor is just right for this baggy-pants role. I hope that Auberjonois and Dishy, like Thursday's child, both have "far to go" in their careers.
Friday's child is loving and giving. Actually, Friday was the long day's journey into night that I took while driving to Boston, so I didn't see a show. But I was still thinking about the one I'd seen the Friday before: The Boy from Oz, wherein Hugh Jackman is still very loving and giving. It's one thing to attend a musical on opening night, when everyone in the cast knows that they've got to give 110% in order to get good reviews, but it's another thing entirely to see a show on an arbitrary night when it's been running for months. But there Jackman was, cavorting with the audience and especially bonding with a woman in the front row, calling her by name and returning to her a few scenes later. She'll remember him and the show for as long as she lives.
But that's not the only way that Jackman is "loving and giving." What I've heard from my buddy Karen Plesher and so many other Jackman junkies is that he's equally loving and giving after each performance. He'll sign autographs and talk and is in no hurry to get away. That makes him Broadway's newest good-will ambassador. I'm glad he'll get a Tony in June.
Saturday's child works hard for a living. The previous Saturday evening, I had found that this was true at Twentieth Century. How fully the cast exerted themselves, and this after they'd already done a Saturday afternoon performance. It took me a while to get used to Anne Heche but not more than a second to adore Julie Halston. I don't think a Best Supporting Actress nod is out of the question here, and I thank Ken Ludwig for changing the role of Oliver to Ida. (Wish I could say I liked his other changes!)
And the child that is born on the Sabbath day is bonny and blithe and good and gay. Well, I'd found out the previous Sunday that Johnny -- as in Guitar -- is blithe and good and has a distinct gay sensibility. But the strange thing is that the 1954 movie on which it was based is funnier!
[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org]
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