Saturday, June 27, 2015

Drinks and Shakespeare

I love Shakespeare. I love seeing his plays performed classically. And I'm also always down to see a modern interpretation. Drunk Shakespeare caters to both the Shakespeare buff and the theatergoer who would rather see anything else than a Shakespeare play.

The space at the Lounge at Roy Arias Stages at 300 West 43rd Street is set up like a library, so if you're a nerd like me, you'll feel at home as soon as you arrive (and the complimentary shot is a nice way to kick things off). At every performance, an actor is selected as the "drunk actor." He/she starts with five shots of whiskey, and continues to drink throughout the performance of Macbeth, occasionally bringing up volunteers from the audience to join. Luckily, no one is forced to participate, but if you love being part of the show, then you might want to be the King or Queen. That means you sit in a throne during the show, drink champagne, eat caviar, and get to make decisions during the play. It's priced at $500, but if no one reserves ahead of time, it's auctioned off to the highest bidder, starting at $15.

My only complaint would be that I would have preferred a play that isn't performed as often as Macbeth, since I've seen it so many times recently, but at least I'd never seen it like this. As the actors point out, Shakespeare plays have a lot of references to alcohol, so it just makes sense. The scenes are performed using Shakespeare's original language, but actors interrupt to clarify things in the play or bring up pop culture references. You can order drinks throughout the 90 minutes and they will be brought to the table. But this is a show that can be enjoyed sober. Shakespeare really is for everybody.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

I Saw Entourage And That Doesn't Make Me A Terrible Person

According to many posts on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, the Entourage movie is the worst thing to happen in the history of cinema. Maybe even in the history of the world. I don't remember ever seeing so much hate for the release of a movie. There's nothing wrong with not wanting to see it and expressing that on social media. But what I found strange was the disbelief that anybody would have any interest in seeing it except maybe bro-y douchebags. I am a woman of reasonably sound mind and this weekend I paid (matinee price, of course, because who can afford to pay full price for movies anymore) to see Entourage in the theaters. I don't think anyone is asking me to defend myself or that anyone needs to defend the entertainment he or she chooses to consume, but with all the negativity surrounding the movie, I just wanted to throw out another perspective.

Entourage only opened at number four at the box office and it got terrible reviews. That's pretty fair. It wasn't a great or, let's be honest, even good movie. It was a movie for fans of the show. And it succeeded on that level. That's all I expected from it. Like most Entourage fans, I really enjoyed the first few seasons and then continued to watch out of a completist's need. That's also why I saw the movie, which was basically an extended episode, no better or worse than the episodes towards the end of the series.

I smiled as the familiar theme song played. Nostalgia is a powerful thing and it had been so long since I'd heard it. I was happy to see each of the characters again as they appeared, at least at first (in truth, I really only always loved Drama and tolerated the rest). All the recurring characters made appearances and acted pretty consistently with the way they acted on the show. Yes, it sucks that the female characters aren't written better. But I have other shows I watch for well-written female characters. And I think it's ok to be entertained by a show or movie with sexist characters. It's not the same as condoning the behavior. The show was always escapist, and as a woman, I can be disgusted by some of the conversations and also drawn to the fantasy of living in a huge house, eating extravagant meals, and telling people off the way Ari does.

Creator Doug Ellin has said that he would do 20 Entourage movies and I hope he gives up on that plan. It should end with this movie. But if he does make another one, I'll probably see it.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

The New Group is on A Roll

To tell you the truth, The New Group has always been pretty hit or miss for me. But this 20th anniversary season has made up for all the misses with Sticks and Bones, Rasheeda Speaking, and now, The Spoils, Jesse Eisenberg's third play.
L to R: Jesse Eisenberg, Erin Darke, Michael Zegen, Annapurna Sriram, Kunal Nayyar
Photo credit: Monique Carboni
Eisenberg has once again written himself a character who is spoiled, sexist, racist, and thinks he's superior to everyone. That probably doesn't sound like a guy you want to spend two hours with, but it's impossible to look away from Eisenberg's fidgety performance, even while you cringe at the words coming out of his mouth.

Ben (Eisenberg) lives in a nice apartment (Derek McLane's set makes me jealous that I don't live there) paid for by his father. He was kicked out of film grad school, so now he spends his days working on his movies although it doesn't seem like he's ever actually made one. He lets his Nepalese roommate, Kalyan (Kunal Nayyar), stay rent free, but he treats him terribly. According to the program, Kalyan is based on Eisenberg's Nepalese friend and I hope Eisenberg treats him better in real life. It's hard not to wonder if Eisenberg is trying to ease his own guilt with his writing, but I'm not here to review the person, just the play, which is getting an excellent production directed by Scott Elliott.

Ben runs into an old classmate from grade school, Ted (Michael Zegen, mastering the art of the awkward laugh), who it turns out is marrying Ben's old crush, Sarah (Erin Darke). Ben invites Ted, Sarah, and Kalyan's girlfriend, Reshma (Annapurna Sriram), for a dinner party. The writing is sharp and funny and actually sounds like how young people talk, especially when spoken by this fine cast of actors. You might find yourself simultaneously laughing and sighing in recognition.