Your enjoyment of RELATIVELY SPEAKING, three one-act comedies by Ethan Coen “Talking Cure” – Elaine May “George is Dead” and Woody Allen “Honeymoon Motel” will depend entirely on your definition of comedy and what you find funny.
You may have a change of heart after seeing these plays at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre featuring some very good actors including Marlo Thomas, Julie Kavner and Steve Guttenberg in some very mediocre material.
All three are loosely directed by John Turturro. It appears that the writers and the actors progressively lose steam as the evening unfolds.
Ethan Coen’s darkly humorous play, “Talking Cure” deals with a Doctor (Jason Kravits) interviewing a Patient, Larry (a superb Danny Hoch) in a mental facility. The patient is adamant that he has no problem even though he has had an incident with someone at the Post Office where he is employed. It is extremely funny until we go to a flashback and meet Larry’s parents. His mom is pregnant with him and all they do is argue about Hitler. The final joke is one of the funniest of the evening. SHORT INTERVAL
Elaine May has written a star vehicle for herself “George is Dead” and has cast Marlo Thomas in the part of Doreen. Her husband has just been killed in an avalanche in Aspen and she has no one to turn to except Carla (Lisa Emery) the daughter of her old nanny (Patricia O’Connell).
She arrives at midnight, knocking on the door looking like Charo, seeking comfort and refuge and some Brie cheese and insisting that Carla take the salt off the saltines. She has never grown up and still acts like a spoiled rich debutante. Carla has her own problems with her husband Michael (Grant Shaud) as she has missed going to an important speech because of her needful mother.
All this is funny up to a point. Then we begin to be bored by Doreen’s antics – she is unable to even make funeral arrangements. Marlo Thomas, in a blond wig and pink frock is unrecognizable except for the trademark raspy voice. Her comic timing is still spot on. But by the time the body arrives we have long since given up caring and laughing. INTERMISSION.
The song, “I’m Old Fashioned” starts off Woody Allen’s “Honeymoon Motel”. And it is. I thought humor like this went out with The Show of Shows starring Sid Caesar. In fact Mr. Caesar would have made a great Rabbi Baumel (Richard Libertini) wagging finger and penis envy jokes and Borscht Belt schtick et al.
Tuxedoed Jerry Spector (a great Steve Guttenberg) arrives at the Motel’s tacky and garish suite complete with spa and round bed with Nina Roth (Ari Graynor) in her wedding gown directly after he had interrupted her nuptials to his step son Paul (Bill Army) and run off with her. She loves the much older Jerry, not Paul. Judy Spector (an hysterical Caroline Aaron) is not amused but has the one other memorable funny line of the evening that deals with a bracelet and its inscription.
The parents of the bride Fay Roth (Julie Kavner) and Sam (Mark Linn-Baker) add to the farce which also runs out of steam, one-liners and sex jokes until the Pizza man arrives Sal Buonacotti (Danny Hoch) in another memorable performance who ties up the unwinding events with his philosophy of life – forgive and forget.
Which is exactly what I intend to do after posting this review.
www.relativelyspeakingbroadway.com Photo: Joan Marcus
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