Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Film Reviews: Omnibus Round-Up of Recent Film Releases, Including the Romantic “The Greatest Hits,” the Violent “Monkey Man” and the Filmed Version of The One-Man Show, “Just for Us”

Looking for some films to see either in theaters or on streaming? Here are some interesting films I’ve seen in the last couple of weeks I recommend. 


The Greatest Hits (c) Searchlight Films


Film: The Greatest Hits 
In Cinemas and Streaming on Hulu 


There is so much to enjoy in the film The Greatest Hits, but I have to bring up the one thing that bothered me throughout: the plot. I certainly love a high concept film, and here we have Harriet (Lucy Boynton), who, when she hears a song that reminds her of dead boyfriend Max (David Corenswet, the newest Superman), she is suddenly transported to that moment. Is she actually time-traveling or is she having psychological breaks with reality? When the film finally answers that question, I was totally frustrated with the logistics, which is always a problem a film that plays with time or multiverses has to face. But this crazy plot does produce a sweet romance between Harriet and David (Justin H. Min of After Yang) who meet at a grief support meeting but may also be involved in each other’s tragic narrative. Director Ned Benson, who gave us the nonlinear romance, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, has a stronger authoritative grip here before the complicated plot soon overwhelms the love story. Still worth a watch. 


Monday, April 8, 2024

The Interested Bystander: Early 2023-24 Tony Award Nomination Predictions

Merrily We Roll Along (c) Matthew Murphy

April is very busy for Broadway and those who cover it. There are Broadway show openings in the double digits in the next few weeks, all hoping to get some Tony Award nominations before the deadline. So, it’s sort of silly to predict who will get award nominations, since most of the shows are in previews right now. But what kind of awards prognosticator would I be if I didn’t try. So, based on reputation, out-of-town or off-Broadway reviews, here are Tony Award predictions, with most of the nominees being sight unseen. 

Monday, April 1, 2024

Theater Reviews: Eclectic Off-Broadway Productions Include a Magic Show Worthy of Vegas (“Stalker”); a Fully Stocked, One-Person “Hamlet;” and Drag Superstar Charles Busch Battling “Ibsen’s Ghost”

Ibsen's Ghost (c) James Leynse


Theater: Ibsen’s Ghost 
At Primary Stages at 59E59 


You will be forgiven if you thought that Charles Busch’s new play Ibsen’s Ghost is the playwright’s adaptation of the prolific Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s 1881 Ghosts. But alas, if you were expecting to see Busch’s interpretation of the play’s heroine, Helen Alving, as she cares for her ailing son Oswald, you will be disappointed (although those who stan Ibsen will get some sly references). And that will be your only disappointment of the evening, as Busch, as usual, has written another wonderful play, this time about Ibsen’s widow, Suzannah. The title’s singular ghost is indeed Ibsen, who metaphorically hovers over Suzannah as she deals with his estate in the aftermath of his death. This includes the unexpected appearances of Ibsen’s former protégé Hanna (Jennifer Van Dyck) as well as a mysterious sailor named Wolf (a welcome return of Thomas Gibson to the New York stage). Both confront Suzannah with secrets in Ibsen’s past, secrets that Suzannah, in typical Busch heroine fashion, resolutely does everything in her power to refute or ignore. Suzannah, who may be harboring a few secrets of her own (reminiscent of Glenn Close’s character in The Wife), is another in a long line of wonderful parts Busch has written for himself, with hysterical one-liners usually accompanied by a melodramatic actorly flourish that tickles the funny bone every time. Busch has always been generous in giving all his characters memorable moments, but he has really written a juicy part in Hanna, who, in Busch regular Jennifer Van Dyck’s capable hands, almost steals the show with a masterful and exhausting monologue. Also giving wonderful turns are two-time Tony-winner Judy Kaye as Suzannah’s snooty stepmother, crackerjack Jennifer Cody as her physically deformed maid and chameleon Christopher Borg in two memorable roles, but who shines brighter as the unfortunately named Rat Wife. Compared to Busch’s ambitious last play, The Confessions of Lily Dare, the slighter Ibsen’s Ghost does feel like a minor diversion. But it’s an enjoyable diversion, and the play certainly lives up to its subtitle An Irresponsible Biographical Fantasy. The handsomely mounted production by Busch’s invaluable long-time director Carl Andress will delight devoted fans and curious newcomers alike.