Friday, September 14, 2007


From top: SPAMALOT poster, EURYDICE poster, Eurydice arrives in the Underworld, Eurydice and her father with Chorus in rear

Okay, time to get back in the critical saddle, but before that...a thumbnail review of SPAMALOT. My kids' first Broadway show, what can I say, and a complete and unapologetic rehash of the movie MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, in most scenes word for word. But it doesn't take itself seriously and has some very funny bits, effective newly-injected and imported songs (the latter is "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" from MONTY PYTHON'S LIFE OF BRIAN), huge sets, beautiful costumes and good acting. This is the second or third cast since it opened and it would have been fun to have seen Hank Azaria, David Hyde Pierce and Tim Curry in the first-run company. No standouts in this cast for me, aside from Broadway star Marin Mazzie as The Lady of the Lake. Mazzie has appeared in many hit shows, including those by Stephen Sondheim, and is sexy, funny and has an incredible raise-the-roof voice. She is given some very funny self-aware po-mo songs, as in the second act when she comes on in her dressing gown and furiously belts out "Whatever happened to my part?" A good time was had by all!

The other show we saw in NY was a Yale Rep production of Sarah Ruhl's EURYDICE at off-Broadway's Second Stage Theatre (where I saw Mary Zimmerman's THE NOTEBOOKS OF LEONARDO DA VINCI in 2003). A lovely revisioning of the tragic tale of the beautiful Eurydice and the musician Orpheus and their journey into the underworld across the River Styx. But in Ruhl's version, written following the death of her father, the play focuses less on the young lovers and more on Eurydice and her father, who become reunited in the underworld when Pluto takes Eurydice there. The father has chosen to remember his life on earth, a very unwise move (according to the trio chorus of Gothic Victorian grotesques) when he could so easily wash himself in river water and forget everything, i.e., be 'really' dead. The father helps his daughter--who has been "flooded with forgetfulness" upon her arrival--remember her life. In one of the most beautiful and simple moments in the show, he uses a ball of string to create a room for her to live in within the vast emptiness and nothingness of the underworld. They sit in there together and talk, like Lear and Cordelia as two little birds in a cage. Then Orpheus arrives with music so beautiful he makes the hard-hearted (and in this version, completely childish and selfish rather than malevolent) Pluto cry and thereby agree to release Eurydice. But Orpheus must never look back at her as they weave their way out of the underworld. The audience shares one of those priceless collective gasps when, after what seems like hours but is probably a couple of minutes into their trek circumnavigating the stage, Eurydice calls to Orpheus and he responds by turning around. The end of the play--when Eurydice returns quite happily to her father and finds he has made a decision she can only follow--is both theatrically powerful and emotionally devastating. The acting was very strong, in every part, with the actress playing Eurydice reminding me of a young Julia Roberts, very charming. The gorgeous and totally integrated (both practically and metaphorically speaking) set design, with live running water, was also a treat. A great choice and one that moved all of us to tears.

No comments: