Monday, December 10, 2007

The Nutcracker (NYC Ballet)

BOTTOM LINE: brilliant choreography and music with a side of screaming children.

The Nutcracker is The Nutcracker and the NYC Ballet does an incredible job with some of the most talented dancers and musicians out there. It's an overly dramatized ballet with an easy to understand story line that makes you feel all gooey and Christmasy inside. I'm not going to lie, I enjoy this ballet despite the cheesiness with which it drips. And for $40, you can get a decent seat (albeit in the fourth tier). If you like ballet and can tolerate schmamy Christmas stories, The Nutcracker is a sure thing.

BIG GLARING HOWEVER: Since when did it become acceptable to allow screaming kids to run around a theatre during a live performance? Throughout the majority of the ballet, this insufferable two year old behind me talked incessantly. It was mostly indecipherable sounds of boredom, but sometimes she'd get really into it and let us know her thoughts ("I like the yellow one!") And most of time time her mother would let out an equally insufferable "sssssshhhhhhhhhh" to let us know she wasn't the crappy parent we all suspected. This continuted throughout the performance, but was dwarfed in annoyance when a crying baby a few sections over wouldn't shut up...oh, and its mother didn't think she needed to remove said baby either (until the usher told her she had to). After intermission when all the children returned with cellophane wrapped goodies from the lobby, it was the candy crinkling on top of the two year old's mutterings that took precedence in my brain...sorry Tschaikovsky. I'm all for taking children to cultural events and exposing them to the arts and to be fair, there were a lot of kids there that had really great manners. But the ballet is not the circus, even if it is The Nutcracker, and it's insanely disrespectful to the performers and audience members to allow a distraction like that to continue.

Maybe I was there on a rough night, and maybe it's better if you're not sitting in the fourth tier. Check out The Nutcracker if you're a fan of the ballet or of dance in general, just be warned that you might need to work a little harder to tune-out those around you.

(The Nutcracker is a seasonal show that ends in early January. You can get tickets at or by going to the box office at Lincoln Center.)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Seafarer (Booth Theatre)

BOTTOM LINE: not a passive theatre experience...funny and interesting, but only if you can keep up.

The Seafarer is written and directed by Conor McPherson, an Irish guy who received critical acclaim last year for Broadway's Shining City. He's a fantastic storyteller and for The Seafarer he has created five interesting characters who are both farcical and sympathetic. The writing is witty and maintains that great dry humor from the UK. At times the script is wordy, but it's paced well and consistently funny so my interest was always piqued.

Here's where it gets tricky...between the Irish accents and quick pace, I had some difficulties keeping up with the details of the plot, especially at first. Also, the script requires work from the audience. It's not an easily digestible, fluffy story that absolves the audience of effort. It's somewhat challenging and thought-provoking, so if you're looking for the mind-numbing escapism that theatre can provide, this is not for you.

At the risk of revealing too much about the plot, I'll just borrow TheatreSource's synopsis: "It's Christmas Eve and Sharky has returned to Dublin to look after his irascible, aging brother who's recently gone blind. Old drinking buddies Ivan and Nicky are holed up at the house too, hoping to play some cards. But with the arrival of a stranger from the distant past, the stakes are raised ever higher. In fact, Sharky may be playing for his very soul."

The high points for me in The Seafarer were the performances and the humor. The cast is's five guys you've seen many times before but probably don't know their names. The low point was the story development. Even though Act One is all exposition, by the time the plot got to the main conflict, I wasn't really sure how we'd gotten there. And sure, I know I lost a few details (see second paragraph), but the plot still had a couple of big holes that were never fully explained. It didn't take away from my understanding of the play, it just left me with a couple of questions.

You should see The Seafarer if you like theatre that makes you think and if you like snarky humor from overseas. You should not see The Seafarer if you go to the theatre for escapism and light entertainment.

(The Seafarer is still in previews; it officially opens December 6th. It plays at The Booth Theatre at 222 W. 45th St.)