Friday, April 4, 2008
BOTTOM LINE: One Coen brother on stage is a lot like two Coen brothers on screen. Glorious!
Almost An Evening is written by Oscar winning filmmaker Ethan Coen (who normally functions aside his brother Joel). This is a solo writing venture and also Ethan Coen's off-Broadway debut. And it rocks. The Coen brothers are known for eccentric characters, dry humor, and an undertone of intellectual merit (see No Country For Old Men, Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski, Fargo, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? for more information).
This production is actually three short one-acts that aren't related in subject matter but are certainly similar in tone and humor. The cast includes 9 actors and each portrays a couple of characters throughout the three plays. The cool thing about Almost An Evening is that it brilliantly walks the line between poignant and funny. It's not a passive theatre experience, but it's also not tedious to follow along. Ethan Coen doesn't try to put anything past you, but it's also intended for a more "with it" audience (read: not the geriatric crowd).
Almost An Evening brilliantly incorporates that great Coen mindfuck. You know what I mean...in a Coen brothers movie, it might be "gee, how gruesome can this scene get before the audience vomits all over themselves?" Or, "let's convince the audience that something is true and then pull the rug out from under everyone at precisely the right moment." Well, in this play, it's more like "hmm, I wonder if we can still tell this story if we keep it pitch black for 5 minutes."
Almost An Evening premiered at Atlantic Theatre Company in a very sold-out run earlier this year. It is now playing a limited off-Broadway engagement until June 1st. And it's no surprise it was picked up for a longer run, the cast and crew are an acclaimed team. The cast of 9 includes many seasoned actors...they're the kind of people you recognize but then have to imdb when you get home. The most notable cast member is F. Murray Abraham, who plays God like the curmudgeony love child of George Carlin and Lewis Black. The show is directed by the very capable Neil Pepe, the artistic director at Atlantic Theatre Company. Check it out while it's still playing, it's just a good time.
(Almost An Evening plays at The Theatres at 45 Bleecker Street, 45 Bleecker between Mott and Lafayette. Tickets are $50 and are available at the box office, at telecharge.com or by calling 212.239.6200. Student tickets are available at the box office on the day of performance for $20. Visit almostanevening.com for more information.)