Lincoln Center Theater
At the Mitzi E. Newhouse
Andre Bishop: Producing Artistic Director
Shows for Days
(Shows for Days Web Page)
By Douglas Carter Beane
Patti LuPone, Jordan Dean, Dale Soules
Michael Urie, Lance Coadie Williams, Zoë Winters
Directed by Jerry Zaks
Sets: John Lee Beatty
Costumes: William Ivey Long
Lighting: Natasha Katz
Sound: Leon Rothenberg
Stage Manager: William H. Lang
Casting: Daniel Swee
Exec. Dir., Development & Planning: Hattie K. Jutagir
Director of Marketing: Linda Mason Ross
General Press Agent: Philip Rinaldi
Managing Director: Adam Siegel
General Manager: Jessica Niebanck
Production Manager: Paul Smithyman
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 9, 2015
What a surprise, Patti LuPone arrived onstage tonight, before the curtain, to tell us how she snatched a cell phone from a rude audience member, last night, who was texting throughout the play. She had tonight’s audience take out phones and turn them off. Well, one did ring, but thankfully briefly, during the show. This is an ongoing disaster in concerts, ballets, films, and theater, and I, for one, am often the row’s sheriff. I applaud Patti LuPone, and her pre-emptive attention to this disruptive phenomenon was impressive. Now, if only I’d known that potentially ringing phones would be nothing, compared to the vibrating, crashing sounds, as loud and lifelike as an actual building explosion, that would frequently overwhelm this show. They did. And, it was a rattling, nerve-wracking experience. Also nerve-wracking were shrieking noises made by two of tonight’s actors, playing amateur actors (a play within a play) in 1973, Reading, Pennsylvania. The play’s setting is Reading, because that’s the hometown of Douglas Carter Beane, the Shows for Days playwright, who’s narrating this semi-autobiographical play, in the voice of a character named Car (Michael Urie).
Car is telling us how he became enamored of theater, one day, walking into Genesius Theater as a fourteen year-old, being invited to paint a set, and then offered a role in the troupe’s play. Yet, the character Car is a runaway teen, a young one at that, and the people he meets en route, mostly supportive and inspirational, also include one who exploits his ingénue innocence. How this scene was presented so smoothly here is more than puzzling. Two of Genesius’ actors, who also assist with technical and other tasks, Maria (Zoe Winters) and Damien (Jordan Dean) are the two shriekers, but only in their faux rehearsals. Remaining cast, Ms. LuPone, as Irene, the married head of the community theater, who’s infatuated with the younger Damian, Dale Soules, as Sid, Irene’s go-to-gal, actor, and everything else, who’s been dumped by her girlfriend, and Lance Coadie Williams, as Clive, who’s having an affair with a prominent, Republican big-wig, are credible and charismatic, as is Mr. Urie.
The wrecking ball first blasts through, when the theater is about to be demolished to make way for a real estate deal. Here, Ms. LuPone is at her finest, as she wheels and deals with her coterie to land the former, local Republican headquarters for Genesius, and to make it a non-profit with state grants. Clive and Sid are recruited to make some painful phone calls, warning of gossipy blackmail. It’s during this scenario that the dialogue sparks with vibrant, verbal ping-pong. In addition to Ms. LuPone’s Irene, Ms. Soules’ Sid and Mr. Williams’ Clive trade demands, sarcasm, threats, and tantrums with perfect pitch and timing. Mr. Urie shifts between narrator and budding playwright, with strips of tape in geometric forms on the stage, to shape locations and sequence. Unfortunately, this is a poor visual, added to John Lee Beatty’s backdrop of rickety furniture and props, plants and platters. In fact, walking into the theater tonight, my colleague and I noticed the dreariness of this set, probably realistic, community theater, 1973 Reading, PA, but there was no balance or break to this. And, then the frequent sound of wrecking balls…
Mr. Urie has an outsized, warm personality, a comfortable presence, and an expansive reach in his instantaneous time travel, from teen of fourteen to reflective, older playwright, now, at the Mitzi Newhouse. But, it’s Ms. LuPone who really carries this play, donning William Ivey Long’s concept of a 70’s, gold lamé dress (I’d love that dress), stealing Maria’s mink stole to fund the theater’s transition, holding Sid’s and Clive’s feet to the fire, in her quest for success, and flirting shamelessly with Damian, who needs the job. As mentioned, Mr. Beatty’s sets are unpleasant, including scratched wood tables that screech along the floor. Mr. Ivey Long’s costumes are wonderful, and in need of a better script. At one point, the cast is rehearsing Peter Pan, and a white-blue, furry Sid arrives, holding “Nana”, the dog’s, big faux head in her arms. Jerry Zaks could have added some dynamism to the direction, in place of the shrieking and crashing interruptions, that make a cell phone ring surprisingly less annoying. These are “six characters in search of an author”. I’d love to see this ensemble again in another production, hopefully at the Newhouse, maybe even one by Mr. Beane.
I would like to note that I gave a rave review to Douglas Carter Beane’s 2013, The Nance, also a Lincoln Center Theater production.
Patti LuPone and Michael Urie
in "Shows for Days"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus
Lance Coadie Williams and Patti LuPone
in "Shows for Days"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus