Sunday, April 26, 2009

COMEDY, in the Round, and UNHINGED

Christopher Durang is clearly deranged, and I couldn’t be more pleased. His targets in “WHY TORTURE IS WRONG, and the People who Love Them” at the Public are those decent people despise—“enhanced interrogation” and paranoia, which include the people who have the second and so do the first. Upstairs in the home of the parents of Felicity(Tony award winning Laura Benanti, who has less of an adversary in her (could he be?) terrorist husband, than she did with Patti Lupone playing her mother in “Gypsy”) her father(Richard Poe) is conducting a “shadow government”, Dick Cheney with hair. Her mother, Luella, (Kristine Nielsen) deliciously ditsy and full of actressy surprises, gave me, personally, a passel of laughs, expressing the playwright’s disdain for that with which I most closely identified: “Wicked” and Tom Stoppard’s “Coast of Utopia” (someone she knew committed suicide rather than face the third segment of that marathon , as bleak and pretentious an experience as I have ever had in the theater.)
A happier marathon, apparently, took place at the Circle in the Square, with Alan Ayckbourn’s “The Norman Conquests.” I saw only the evening’s presentation, but the audience that had been there all day sat literally around with delighted expressions on their faces, as if they had spent the time with eccentric but beloved relatives. There is employed in the scenario the device of the “dirty weekend,” which the Brits, in their dualistic approach to sex, much too well brought up to discuss it openly, but secretly delighting in its gamey underside(see Christine Keeler and various shops in Shepherd’s Market) seem to like better than straightforward lust. Nobody managed to get away to have one in the segment I saw, but everyone longed for and almost got there. The three sisters and their various mates all of whom hunger for one of the others are acted with comedic perfection by the ensemble cast, directed to a farcical fare-thee-well by Matthew Warchus. I shall have to go back and see the other two to understand why the patently intelligent audience felt such a sense of kinship and delight with their adopted(for a day) family