Sunday, October 6, 2019

[MANHATTAN] Broadway Barrage Season 4

This year marks the fourth season of Broadway Barrage, probably the only thing I look forward to every year now. The selection this year is almost equally divided between straight plays and musicals with neither genre ending up being disappointing. Over all, it has been an awesome year and a lot of shows made a very good impression that it’s just so damn hard to choose a favorite. Or maybe I don’t have to choose a favorite! Hopefully, this lineup can be duplicated for the 5th season coming next year.

The play is basically two long monologues from two guys who never meet or interact. The style makes you feel like you are watching a stand-up comedy routine, which is true to some extent because both Gyllenhaal and Sturridge have a few punchlines up their sleeves. This is more of a drama, though, because of the sad stories that they tell. So perhaps “stand up dramedy” is the more appropriate term? It’s easy to lose track of what they are talking about because of the kilometric lines. Sea Wall/A Life is definitely not for anyone with a short attention span.

You know you are old when Harry Potter comes out of retirement and crosses over to the stage as a dad. Of three! This is one of the things that makes Harry Potter and the Cursed Child work like magic. Aside from taking advantage of an entire generation’s nostalgia, it also presents a storyline that allows its characters to grow up with its fanbase. This is common formula in film and television as of late but theater does not often get to see something similar, even more so for a such a crossover material.

First stop: the songs. It could be the abundance of falsettos that heighten the emotions or maybe the honesty in the lyrics that hit you hard. Either way the soundtrack serves as an extension of the play’s central theme, something that you can play over and over again just for the sincerity of its message. Perhaps that’s the reason why for a musical that is rather relatively young, Dear Evan Hansen’s songs have been enjoying a unique following since its debut. I’ve always wondered why. Now I know, and I can’t be any happier that I was able to experience those songs firsthand from such a talented cast.

Betrayal is full of dialogues. Again, one of those talker straight plays. The set couldn’t have been more minimalistic. You have two chairs, four bottles of beer, and a wide canvas wall as the background. Only two actors can sit at the same time, so the other one is forced to move to the background and “admire” the wall art most of the time. Given the style, this is a relatively easy play to stage if you have dependable actors who can capture an audience with their mere presence.

And then you have the production design. They totally transformed the Al Hirschfeld Theater, coloring it rouge with velvet drapes hanging all around. Installing the iconic red windmill on the left side of the stage and that gigantic elephant on the right. You’re not watching Moulin Rouge, you ARE in the Moulin Rouge. If you buy the most expensive ticket, you sit at the VIP section in front made to look like you were at the famed cabaret itself, right by the stage where all the action is.

Well that was a riot. I came to the theater without expectations and not knowing what this material was all about. I knew that there was a film but didn’t have an idea what the storyline was. I just saw a lot of black and white, which somehow made me relate the narrative to The Addams Family because of the same gothic look and feel. To settle things once and for all this is a story about death, grief, and finding life in such themes. That sounds rather ironic, yet the plot works that way at least. In any case, if you do watch Beetlejuice, do so for the humor.

This show would have been boring if not for both Parker and Hochman who have impeccable comic timing. They drop their lines in such a nonchalant manner that keeps the audience laughing, like listening to seasoned stand-up comedians tackling some profound realities in life but diluting it with deadpan humor to make it more palatable to an audience that came to the theater to reflect on their everyday realities without having to cut back on entertainment value. Overall, The Sound Inside is a pleasant surprise, a funny and thought-provoking one at that.
[MANHATTAN] Broadway Barrage Season 4

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