It’s been a while since I’ve had a triple-show day. Seven years, to be exact. The last time I did this was with an old friend named Lauren in June of 2003; we saw Take Me Out, From My Hometown, and Zanna Don’t! It was lots of fun, but we were exhausted after and fell right to sleep when we retired to my cousin’s Sheridan Square apartment. Thanks to obscure off-Broadway performance times, I was able to fit in three of the four off-Broadway shows that have been on my list of shows to see. I spent the entire day downtown and it was refreshing. I had secured a ticket for Zero Hour the day before on PlayByPlay and was going to take my chances with the others. I got very lucky because there was rush available for Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson at 5pm; and about 3 minutes before the 8pm curtain rose for The Metal Children, I snagged a cancellation ticket for rush price (it had been sold out all day).
Zero Hour, 2pm: A one man show written and performed by Jim Brochu. The premise was that we were being welcomed into Zero Mostel’s apartment and he was being interviewed by The New York Times, so he talked all about his life and what an interesting life that was! This hour-and-fifty minute play was broken into two acts unnecessarily, I thought, but overall was completely entertaining and really informative (I didn’t know a lot about Zero Mostel). It did feel a BIT long though. Jim Brochu did a fantastic job both as far as the script went and as a performer himself. If you are a theatre person, definitely swing by the DR2 to catch this.
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, 5pm: Playing at The Public Theater, I had heard mixed things about this show, from ‘you have to see it downtown' to 'I didn’t really like it.’ As far as I knew, this was a rock musical about Andrew Jackson, who was on of our early presidents. But I went in with an open mind and was immediately taken by the set design (see above, scenic design by Donyale Werle) and the lighting. We first meet Andrew Jackson (played brilliantly by Benjamin Walker) in his very early teens and I got the sense that, Oh no, please don’t let this be another Spring Awakening, because it was full of teen angst though, though unlike SA it was kind of hokey, poking fun at itself from the very start. But it got better, much better, and I ended up really, really enjoying it. The similarities between Jackson’s campaign and that of Obama’s were mind-blowing (save for Native American warfare). The same things were going on - terrorism on our soil, in our homes, so they said. Jackson was a people’s president, and wanted to give the people what they wanted, etc. Jackson was not at all portrayed as a martyr, but more like a whiney little boy, especially when the red tape in the legal system wasn’t allowing him his way. They discuss Jackson’s failures and how he was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Native Americans, but it’s really left up the audience to decide whether or not they like Jackson. I walked away from this show not only having been educated and entertained, but also wanting to hand chandeliers and blue twinkle lights from the ceiling of my apartment. I felt a bit guilty after having enjoyed it when I was reprimanded by a friend and told that the Native American population is outraged by this show and that I should do my research after. In the end though, I don’t think I really need to feel guilty because it wasn’t saying what Andrew Jackson did was good and my friend hasn’t seen the show yet anyway! I’m going to try to convince her to do so despite her feelings against it. Benjamin Walker as Andrew Jackson I thought did a fabulous job, aside from his beautiful vocal chords, he effectively made the transition from adolescent AJ to a more mature and adult AJ and it was believable - despite the characters whining from time to time.
I’ve heard lately that they are moving BBAJ to Broadway and I have to say that I don’t think it’s a good idea. I don’t think there’s a enough audience for it, the beginning needs to be cleaned up, and it will offend many (Native Americans, maybe, Republicans, and cheerleaders of our Founding Fathers who aren’t portrayed in a very flattering way).
The Metal Children, 8pm: As I’ve said before, I read this play two years ago when I found it atop a discard pile in a casting office and I loved it then so I was ecstatic when I heard it’d finally been picked up at the Vineyard Theatre for the ‘09-‘10 season. The premise of this piece is that Tobin Falmouth (Billy Crudup), a writer of provocative young adult novels, has just learned that his novel has been banned by the school board in a small American town in the heart land and after convincing and bribery from his agent (David Greenspan), he makes the trip out to the small town to make his case for why the book should stay in the curriculum. He meets Vera (Phoebe Strole) who is the leader of the movement to keep the book and, also, Tobin learns about the plan of 35 girls in the community, lead by Vera, who are getting pregnant on purpose and they intend to start a community together in Idaho. Falmouth endures multiple violent hate crimes by a member of the church (surprise, surprise), as does the chair of the English department (Connor Barrett). Falmouth ends up changed for the better in the end though, despite his book being once-and-for-all banned in that community. The last time I’d seen Billy Crudup onstage was in 2005 in The Pillowman where he played yet another writer, though this time of children’s horror stories that began to be personified. Crudup was, in a single word, unbelievable. He spent half of his time onstage shivering because his character was having a mild-meltdown for most of it. He portrayed the physicality of the character 110%.
I absolutely adore Adam Rapp (he was milling around the back of the house before the show last night - though nowhere to be found afterwards or at intermission) and his writing - it’s ironic, hysterical, heart breakingly upsetting at times and real. He did a great job directing it, except for maybe the long-ish break in between the last and next-to-last scenes in the first act - the audience was left stunned and after the lights came up, no one moved or applauded for a good 20 seconds. This was my 6th play of his that I’ve seen since first falling in love with him in 2006 after witnessing the beauty that was Red Light Winter at the Barrow Street Theatre. I cannot wait to see what he has in store for us next.
An exhausting day of theatre, but totally worth every second. I didn’t even have time to eat from 1pm until 11:30pm, but if there’s anything worth forgoing a meal for, it’s theatre.