Friday, April 01, 2011

The Curse of Bad Broadway Shows

Few things are more embarrassing and mortifying than to take highly intelligent, sophisticated and lovable friends to a Broadway play only to be insulted by its mediocrity and lack of a coherent reason for existing. With our long-suffering friend Jacqueline, who comes all the way from the Middle East and hence does not need further aggravation, this is the second time we fail her. (First time was that abomination Stepping Out, the Billy Joel musical).
Yesterday we attended the opening night of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, starring Robin Williams. A crapshoot at 50% off in the TKTS booth. We paid 65 dollars for the privilege of watching a play that seems to have been written by an utterly untalented and unintelligent 15 year old. Had we seen it in a high school gym in a suburban town with the school's drama club, perhaps we'd had humored it with grudging tolerance. But still would have counseled the aspiring playwright to learn the craft and avoid repeating every half sentence seven times. And the director to instruct his actors not to bark at the audience the entire time.
This is one of the most appalling shows I've ever seen on Broadway (followed closely by A Free Man of Color). They both suffer from the same problem. They are not plays. They are tableaux. Representations. Harangues. Plays about "ideas". This one confuses drama with non stop screaming and dialogue that goes more or less like this:
Stupid American soldier:
What are they saying!!! Tell me what they are saying!!! What the fuck are they saying??
Iraqi translator:
What do you want? Tell me what you want!!! What the fuck do you want???
This goes on for two hours. 
I bet Rajiv Joseph, the playwright, thinks he is channeling Beckett and Pinter and Mamet. He needs to have the wax removed from his ears. It's reaching all the way up to his brain. 
I counseled my beleaguered friends to leave at intermission but we wrongly decided to give the play a chance. Needless to say, it got worse. We left before having to endure the further injury of wildly undeserved final curtain applause.
Since this was opening night, the audience was comprised of overdressed people (I've never seen so much plastic surgery outside of LA) that clapped every time a scene mercifully ended. I suspect they were the proud relatives of the cast and sundry investors. Robin Williams, who was the only sane person on stage, almost could not open his mouth without bursts of applause. I hate it when the audience thinks they are at a taping of The Price Is Right. Williams was the only source of respite in a horribly directed production. Like the poor tiger he plays, he is trapped in a really bad play. I was fascinated by his precision with a punch line. He has a couple of mildly funny lines, but because he is a seasoned comedian, he lands the punch lines with force and grace, making them sound funnier than they are. Alas, the play is so bad that by Act 2, it all starts sounding like shtick.
The rest of the actors are instructed to bray and scream like banshees at all times. The guys who play the American soldiers, especially the white one, are atrocious. 
Everything about this play is atrocious. I want my money, my time, and most importantly, my dignity back.


  1. Anonymous1:08 PM

    This show isn't supposed to be a comedy. The play was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, not a MAC Award.

    BTW, the Billy Joel musical to which you're referring is MOVIN' OUT, and it was nominated for nine Tony Awards (won two), six Drama Desk Awards (won one), three Astaire Awards (won three), one Theatre World Award (won) and a Helen Hayes Award (won).

    Good luck as a critic! :D

  2. mookilatte9:23 PM

    did you read isherwood's review? WTF? bengal was pathetic. what is the world coming to when a pulitzer nominated play rips off lines from "are you there god, it's me margaret?" atrocious, wooden, philosophically sophomoric and inane.

  3. Anonymous8:45 AM

    RT @newyorktheater: If I had to be pick 1 show to see of those opened so far this Spring on Bway, it'd be @BengalTigerBway. My review

  4. Mookilatte: I saw the Isherwood review and thought we are living in a parallel universe. I tried to post a reader's review. My headline was: "What Mushrooms Are You On , Mr. Isherwood?" And they didn't print it! Censorship! In any case, there were many reader reviews that coincided with our opinion. Apparently in other performances people were leaving in droves. As for being nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, not impressive. A lot of other crap does too.
    There should be class action suits against critics who so mislead their readers into spending over 100 bucks a ticket to see garbage.

  5. Anonymous10:31 AM

    Gosh! You know SO much! Very impressive that you know much more than the people who sponsor the most recognized, renowned, and prestigious award for writing, the Pulitzer. Maybe you should create the Grande Enchilada Award? I'm sure that based on your comments and your review of BENGAL TIGER, people will look past the Pulitzer and depend on The Grande Enchilada Award when they want to read the best of the best. Brava!