Mark Ruffalo in Rumor Has It
(Photo © Warner Bros. Pictures)
Mark Ruffalo in Rumor Has It
(Photo © Warner Bros. Pictures)
Former Broadway baby Shirley MacLaine might get an Oscar nomination for her bright and bitchy performance in Rumor Has It; she has the juicy role of the supposedly real-life woman who inspired the character of Mrs. Robinson in the famous novel and film The Graduate. But the movie's best acting is quietly happening elsewhere.

Keep your eyes on Mark Ruffalo, who first gained attention for his performance in This Is Our Youth Off-Broadway. He plays Jennifer Aniston's fiancé -- an essentially thankless role, given that the script has Aniston's character bedazzled by the much older Kevin Costner (who, in an odd twist, might actually be her father).

Given what's going on around him, it would be understandable if Ruffalo simply faded into the celluloid. Instead, he plays a real person rather than a stereotype. When his character's heart is broken in the film, his pain is so palpable that you'll forget you're watching a romantic comedy. In fact, his performance is so emotionally gripping that it exposes the artifice of the other actors.

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Way To Go

If you're looking for a charming amusement for the whole family, you have until December 31 to catch This Way,That Way at 59E59 Theatres. This rambunctious combination of mime, magic, juggling, and dance was created by a theater troupe called Parallel Exit. It tells the silent (except for your laughter) story of two innocently inept con men who set out for New York City to make their fortune.

The laughs are a little sparse at the beginning, but soon they literally get on track as the show's two stars, Joel Jeske and Ryan Kasprzak, create a train out of a trunk, a couple of paper cut-outs, and some baby powder. They ride the rails, get involved in a bank robbery, and even break into show business. Most important, though, they have personalities that shine through their art.

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Baby Jane Dexter
Baby Jane Dexter
Ooh, Baby, Baby!

Stop the presses! Baby Jane Dexter, one of cabaret's most ferocious divas, has mellowed. Much like a baseball pitcher who used to overpower the opposition with blazing fastballs but now dispatches batters with his accumulated wisdom, Baby Jane has gone from being a force of nature to a natural entertainer. If you don't believe us, check out her new show Time Travel at Helen's, which has just been extended through the end of January.

The title references the fact that Dexter is revisiting songs from her critically acclaimed shows of the past, such as "I Got Thunder" and "Until The Real Thing Comes Along." New arrangements by her longtime musical director, Ross Patterson, allow her to offer fresh takes on these old favorites; her phrasing and tempos are subtly different, and there is the sense that her interpretations are being filtered through her long career. When she sings "Throw It Away," another signature song, you know it's from the heart. Baby Jane is not living in the past; rather, she is reinventing herself for the future.

Her patter, which has delighted some audience members and irked others over the past three decades, has also been toned down. It's still playful, but now there is something rueful in it. All in all, this is a gentler Baby Jane -- and this persona suits her perfectly.

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