Tuesday, October 27, 2009
My New Favorite People (This Week)
I got a chance to check out the play The Understudy, which is currently in previews, on Friday night, and while I'll readily grant that I'm too inexperienced in the Broadway (or in this case, off-Broadway) stage to offer a review that would hold much weight, I'll tell you that I laughed my ass off, and when the lights went out, I had a huge smile on my face. Really delightful and managed to keep a play about actors and Broadway and putting on a play from being too insular and navel-gazing.
Anyway, there are better people than I who can tell you why The Understudy is wonderful. What I do feel qualified to talk about is how much I loved its three stars, Justin Kirk, Julie White, and Mark-Paul Gosselaar. Yes, I am happy to say that Zack Morris himself was able to keep up with his two vastly more experienced co-stars and actually managed to wring some laughs out all on his own.
My affinity for Justin Kirk has been known for a while. I fell in love immediately with Angels in America and have not really looked back. There were a couple seasons of Weeds there where the utter disgustingness of his character began to turn me off, but this last season was his best on the show, so this play kind of hit me while my Kirk wave was cresting.
Julie White has long been someone I figured I would love but I hadn't yet had the chance to see her in anything substantial. You guys, this lady is amazing. She has this manic energy that nevertheless feels very controlled, I don't know how she does it. It works incredibly well opposite her co-stars, and she gets some huge laughs out of lines I can't imagine a lesser actress could do as well with. She's also amazingly charming and warm and smart in a way that radiates through her and into her character. She's totally my current Broadway obsession.
Which, now that I mention it, here's the tragedy of the theater: Julie won her Tony for The Little Dog Laughed, by all accounts a hilarious comedy that opened and closed before I moved to New York. I'm never going to be able to see Julie White perform in that play ever again. There are precious few second chances in Broadway, and the ones that exist are always somehow paled. A touring company production or a revival features different performers. A movie version, even with the same actors, isn't the same. The closest is when PBS will record the show for Great Performances, but even that (which I credit with giving me the Raul Esparza iteration of Company that I love so much) I will grant isn't the same as being in the room.
Yes, it's a cautionary tale that you should make time (and money) for these shows while you can, but that does me no good after the fact. It's a cruel universe for us Julie White fans.
[Compounding this Little Dog tragedy, by the way? My Girlfriend Ari Graynor was in it too! Will the universe never stop retroactively dumping on me??]