THE HONEYMOONERS at Paper Mill Playhouse

The Honeymooners at Paper Mill Playhouse; Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade; from left to right: Leslie Kritzer (Alice), Laura Bell Bundy (Trixie), Michael Mastro (Norton) and Michael McGrath (Ralph)

**1/2

I wanted to like THE HONEYMOONERS, A New Musical Comedy. It has great characters played by great actors; just look at that cast! But what book writers Dusty Kay and Bill Nuss don’t know about the construction of a musical is stupefying. In the first act alone there are two big “let’s celebrate” numbers that are totally unearned. What the hell are they celebrating? All of the comedic “bits” from the original show are here, but they trot them out for display, rather than use them to any effect. The outcome is a string of TV sitcom episodes pasted together with songs thrown in to try to make a musical.

The second act is marginally satisfying, but the music is forgettable and the lyrics are clumsy. If you want to watch “The Honeymooners,” I would suggest YouTube. There are plenty of old episodes there for free. And let’s hope that the next projects for Michael McGrath, Leslie Kritzer, Laura Bell Bundy and Michael Mastro will be worthy of their estimable talents.

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A RAISIN IN THE SUN at Two River Theater

The whole company of A RAISIN IN THE SUN at Two River Theater.

*****

A robust, crackling production of Lorraine Hansberry’s A RAISIN IN THE SUN is currently playing at Two River Theater in Red Bank, NJ, but you need to hurry if you are going to catch this modern classic brought to electrifying life by a superb company under the adept direction of Carl Cofield. This production closes October 8th.

There isn’t a weak link in this cast led by Brenda Pressley and Brandon J. Dirden and there isn’t a false emotion in this thrilling production. Once again Two River shows its strength as a Producer of classic drama. Book your ticket now!

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MARVIN’S ROOM

MARVIN’S ROOM Janeane Garofalo, Lili Taylor. Photo by Joan Marcus.

***

Comedy may be hard, but it seems dark comedy is harder still. After the dour movie starring La Streep, I was happy to get to revisit my beloved MARVIN’S ROOM with the Roundabout’s production starring Lili Taylor, Janeane Garofalo and Celia Weston. I guess I’ll have to hold off on my celebrations until the next revival.

MARVIN’S ROOM, written by Scott McPherson who died at the age of 33 from AIDS, is filled with gallows humor and moments of heartbreaking beauty. This production has mined only half of the laughs and glosses over some of the most touching moments from the play. The director, Anne Kauffman, is aware that it is a comedy, but goes for the broadest jokes as with the overplayed Doctor. Some of the most poignant scenes are barely audible and not given the full weight that they deserve, as in the pivotal scene where Bessie explains to Lee how she benefits from caregiving. Those lines should resonate and devastate, instead, they are just another conversation on an oversized stage. The set is cumbersome and you lose all sense of intimacy so necessary in the tender scenes. The sound design is inadequate to the point where one character is inaudible for half of his lines, further distancing the audience.

I will never forget sitting down at the Minetta Lane Theatre and laughing till I cried at the plight of these Health System Warriors and their struggles to retain their humanity. Even a half-hearted revival won’t dim that memory.

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