He Says: MTC’s Cost of Living Spins a Fascinating and Compelling Net of Complicated Care and Sorrow
“That’s from the Bible,” he tells us, as the complications stream out, jumping backward in order to get to the moment that would bring us full circle. To a place where “holidays are hard” and the drinks are on this grieving man. The pain of loneliness sits real and strong on that barstool and we can’t help but be pulled into his orbit. We wonder how he got to this place where there is nowhere to hide, and we feel for his journey even when we, and he, knows the ghost texts aren’t true.
It’s a compelling, emotional beginning; these messages (not) from a dead wife, signaling the complicated sorrow that exists within. This is his cost of living and loving. The monologue, put forth pitch-perfectly by David Zayas (Broadway’s Anna in the Tropics), delivers us completely to the net that was supposed to be him. That’s the lesson in love and attachment, and what is basically at the heart of Manhattan Theatre Club’s solid and engaging production of Martyna Majok’s Cost of Living.
The intimate and seductive play revolves itself forward, delivering two scenarios that resemble each other, but are weighed down by different functions and connections. We try to string together these scenes with each other, and with the one that opened up this strongly crafted play by Majok (Sanctuary City) that was awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama after a celebrated run at MTC’s Stage I, but the gaps in that net are too widely spaced. The fascinating part of this puzzle is that we have complete faith that this deeply personal exploration of the human condition will find its way home and that Brooklyn bar, and that we will be rewarded for maintaining that faith.
Directed with a sharp focused empathy by the phenomenally wise Jo Bonney (NYTW’s An Ordinary Muslim), Cost of Living is at the heart of this two pronged revolve, with one side occupied grandly by a young man named John, played strongly by Gregg Mozgala (Public’s Teenage Dick), a PhD student with cerebral palsy who hires a tense and desperate Princeton grad by the name of Jess, played heroically by the exceptional Kara Young (magnificent in Broadway’s Clyde’s). Jess has some struggles that hang with weight on her small frame. She tells John that she is currently working several jobs to keep a float, but this is the cost she has taken on, or been thrust into, it’s hard to know exactly. But their connection is palpable from the moment he decides to hire her to care for him, which she does with an openness and care that is deeply touching.
Unrelated to that, the other half of the revolve belongs to the man we were earlier introduced to and an angry woman named Ani, played to perfection by Katy Sullivan (Goodman Theatre’s The Long Red Road). Zayas’ Eddie, a DUI-suspended truck driver arrives to engage with Ani, his estranged wife, for reasons that are quite hard to distinguish. It feels like guilt and some sort of deep shame, possibly connected to the fact that Ani has lost the use of her limbs in an accident of some sort. We lean into their interactions that are filled to the brim with resentment, anger, and concern, but the lines drawn are hard to make out. It fills us with curiosity and the two, in their fiery exchanges, have me in the palm of their talented hands almost immediately.
Broadway’s A Doll’s House Meticulously Stunning Revival Soars Like a Birdie Above That Clumsy Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
For a revival to find its footing, it has to have a point of view or a sense of purpose far beyond an actor’s desire to perform a part, whether it suits them or not. It needs to radiate an idea that will make us want to sit up and pay attention. To feel its need to exist. And on one particular day in March, I was blessed with the opportunity to see not just one grande revival, but two. One was a detailed pulled-apart revolutionary revival of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House that astounded. The other, unfortunately, was a clumsy revival of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof that fell lazily from that high-wired peak – not for a lack of trying, but from a formulation that never found its purpose.
Relevantly Tuneless Fairytale Bad Cinderella Isn’t Bad, It’s Forgettable
You are seriously asking for it, when you make the title for your musical Bad Cinderella, however the show is not bad, it’s just seriously lacking. For an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, which is normally rich in melody, the only song that has any kind of hold is “Only You, Lonely You” sung by Prince Sebastian (Jordan Dobson or in my performance the wonderful Julio Ray). The lyrics by David Zippel and book by Emerald Fennell, adapted by Alexis Scheer are inane. It doesn’t help that the cast for the most part speaks and sings with mouths full of cotton. The orchestrations sound tinny and computerized, The lead Linedy Genao has no charisma or vocals that soar musically, instead she is rather nasal, like Bernadette Peters with a cold. Why this show is two and a half hours long is beyond me.
The show is based in a town called Belleville (beautiful town en Francais), that is based solely on looks and prides itself on its superficiality. The opening number starts with “Beauty Is Our Duty,” the Queen (a fabulous Grace McLean) is into her hunks including her missing son Charming (Cameron Loyal).
And the fairy godmother (Christina Acosta Robinson) is a plastic surgeon who sings “Beauty Has a Price”. In a day and age, where we are suppose to see past all that, this show is politically incorrect.
Cinderella a Gothic, and a graffiti artist, naturally does not fit into the town’s mold of beauty, which is how she earns her nickname. Her rebel move happens when she defaces a memorial statue of Sebastian’s older brother, Prince Charming. Sebastian is more of a geek, and he and Cinderella are in the “friend zone,” since both lack communication skills in admitting their love.
Sebastian is being forced by his mother, the Queen to find a wife at a ball and invites Cinderella. Cinderella’s stepmother (the always remarkable Carolee Carmello) blackmails the Queen to get one of her daughters Adele (Sami Gayle) or Marie (Morgan Higgins) the gig.
McLean and Carmello are the bright spots in the show and if the show had been about these two, maybe we would actually have a show that could work. These two steal the show.
Cinderella has not one, but two what should have been show stopping numbers “I Know I Have A Heart (Because You Broke It)” and “Far Too Late,” but she does not have the vocals, the character development or the star power to carry them off.
The set and the revenge porn costumes by Gabriela Tylesova, are just over the top, with the storybook set faring much better than the over complicated flowered pastels that waltzed across the stage.
The direction by Laurence Connor is just dull and lacks oomph.
If you like buff men and Chippendale type choreography this is the show for you.
Bad Cinderella, Imperial Theatre, 249 West 45th Street.
Did You Know There Is A Kander & Ebb Way?
On Friday, March 24th, the 96-year-old John Kander was given a Mayoral Proclamation from Mayor Eric Adams in celebration of the first performance of his new Broadway musical New York, New York. Following the proclamation, Lin-Manuel Miranda unveiled the sign renaming 44th Steet ‘Kander & Ebb Way. On hand was the Manhattan School of Music to performed the iconic Kander & Ebb song “New York, New York.”
New York, New York opens Wednesday, April 26, 2023 at Broadway’s St. James Theatre (246 West 44th Street).
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