The Labyrinth Theater Company put on Celebrity Charades, their whimsical annual benefit last week. As the name would suggest, the evening was an all-star lineup assembled into teams to play the age-old theatrical party game. Players included Richard Kind, Josh Charles and Zoe Kazan who blazed through movies, television shows, songs and plays often in mere seconds to edge each other out for the final prize. The space at Capitale where it was held is hardly intimate but there were moments when the event felt like a tiny glimpse into what it would be like to have a dinner party with Bobby Cannavale, Padma Lakshmi or Amanda Seyfried.
Legendary monologist and playwright Eric Bogosian was also in attendance though sadly did not participate in the charades. I was lucky enough to see him the previous week reading monologues from his shows "Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll," "Pounding Nails in the Floor with my Forehead" and "Wake Up and Smell the Coffee" -- which I saw in high school at the now defunct Jane Street Theater. During the intimate evening Bogosian admitted as he flipped between monologues (from his new book, 100 Monologues, which comes out December 31st) that he initially was just interested in the way people spoke not what they were saying. The depth and beautiful complexity all came out of this fascination with the diverse vernacular of the city. Listening to him inhabit these fringe characters brought the pre-Disney New York back to vivid life.
Elevator Repair Service is also fascinated by language, crafting their productions from pre-existing texts. They've made a name for themselves adapting iconic novels by Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner, but their latest show, Arguendo, is rooted in more raw material, specifically a transcript of the 1991 U.S. Supreme Court case Barnes v. Glen Theatre which was brought by a group of strippers fighting for their first amendment right to dance sans clothes. Mike Iveson, Vin Knight, Susie Sokol and Ben Williams play all nine justices and handle the legalese with aplomb, celebrating the virtues of argument while highlighting the absurdities of law and the people who make it. John Collins astute direction and the company's collective adaptation never sacrifices content for comedy but manages to unearth plenty of it directly from the text.
David Adjmi's script for Marie Antoinette at Soho Rep is sadly lacking. His previous plays, Stunning and 3C, burst with originality but MA more often than not feels like a tired, historical sketch offering little insight into the life of the infamous Queen. It begins promisingly with a sharp string of dialogue between Marie and her friends that parodies her excess but her character remains stagnant for the rest of the play's 90 minutes despite a strong performance by Marin Ireland. Part of the problem is that the conflict is largely coming from external forces that we don't see, so most scenes consist of groups of royalty wondering why everyone hates them. It's good for a laugh but not much else. David Greenspan is inspired as a talking sheep-cum-soothsayer that communicates the public's hatred of Marie to her but is sadly underutilized.
Sharr White's The Snow Geese is an unwatchable dreary mess of a story of faded wealth that feels like third-rate Chekhov fan-fiction, capturing the basic plot of The Cherry Orchard with none of gravitas or character development. The usually charming Mary-Louise Parker gives a hollow performance and the rest of the cast isn't much better.
Up in Boston, Bryan Cranston recently completed a tour-de-force performance as a newly anointed President Johnson in Richard Schenkken's Broadway-bound bioplay, All the Way. It focuses on the year following President Kennedy's assassination as Johnson pushes tirelessly to get Civil Rights legislation passed while also escalating the Vietnam War. Schenkken paints a complex portrait of Johnson, highlighting his virtue without shying away from the more unsavory bits of his nature. Cranston, just off of Breaking Bad relishes the duality of character. While there aren't many connections to draw between Walter White and Lyndon Johnson, both are tenacious in their pursuit of creating a meth empire and a more just society respectively.
The American Repertory Theatre is more intimate than any Broadway space and features a large reception area that spills into a mellow garden. It's also happily only two stops on the T from the hotel I stayed at, Kimpton's Nine Zero. Located in the ladder district at the edge of the historic Boston Common, it's ideally located for avoiding cabs. Inside, there's an understated elegance and common sense service that goes a long way. I forgot my hairbrush, so a comb was handed to me upon arrival as was an unlimited glass of wine at their daily happy hour at 5 p.m. The rooms aren't showy but get the important things right: comfy bed and powerful shower.
While in Boston, I dined at Joan Johnson's farm-to-table restaurant Erbaluce where the menu changes each day. Hand-written in elegant cursive, the many menu choices that Sunday included lobster minestra with heirloom beans, tarragon and garlic croutons and red leaf lettuce and local heirloom tomatoes with black olive oil dressing and burrata. Perhaps the highlight though was a pan-roasted bavette steak with parmesan, thyme and walnut crust with aged balsamic. The atmosphere is muted elegance with a back room that inspires intimate conversations. Gordon Clapp of NYPD Blue fame and longtime Bostonian sat at the table across from us, but this isn't the kind of place where people point those things out.