Okay, so it’s about an opening night party after the premiere of a new play as all the integral players wait for the reviews to come out. This premise forces all the action to happen in one room, specifically the bedroom of the producer, played by Megan Mullally. Bottling everyone claustrophobically inside this room as so much goes to shit and people start fighting and turning on each other and ugh just talking too much, it will make you want to shout from your seat “JUST LEAVE! JUST WALK OUT THE DOOR AND LEAVE WTF!” As I’m sure all audience members do, I felt like Bunuel in “Midnight in Paris” when Owen Wilson explains his future film to him, and Bunuel is like “But why don’t they just leave? I don’t understand.” This show.
Megan Mullally (I’m not going to use character names because these actors were not able to escape their public personae) is the sole producer of a show for the first time, so she is nervous about the reviews, and thus spends the entire opening night party (which she’s having at her HOME, which is LUDICROUS) upstairs in her bedroom. Pseudo-friends start popping in and never leaving, including:
- Nathan Lane, a television actor who gave up the lead in this play for his now-cancelled series even though the playwright is his ‘best friend’;
- the playwright Matthew Broderick, who is the most boring milquetoast man you have ever seen and I shudder to think of poor SJP;
- the director Rupert Grint, who is saddled with the worst costume and the worst bit (infra) and will have to deal with everyone saying how his Broadway debut did not measure up to Daniel Radcliffe’s but that’s not really his fault because this show;
- the theatre critic F. Murray Abraham, who somehow works his way into the inner circle despite, um, being a critic, and is just super miscast;
- the lead of the Play, Stockard Channing, who is trying to overcome her serious drug addictions (haha so funny?) by doing many drugs onstage while wearing her ankle monitor (which she couldn't remove during the play within the play);
- and the best part of this show, Micah Stock, stealing all his scenes as the hopeful actor working this party as the coat-check guy.
I don't want to be super mean; it's not like this is the worst show ever or even right now. It's just that it has so much freaking potential and that makes it even worse, (like "American Hustle"). As you know, it makes me angrier when something so easily could be better than when something just sucks. It reeks of laziness and negligence when a little more attention and effort could make something great. Hence why I'm so angry about this and I didn't say anything about "Holler If Ya Hear Me".
Nathan Lane, bless his heart, tries so freaking hard in everything he does. You can almost see a cloud of smoke (not farts) following him around as his effort outweighs every single person ever inspired by any small engine that ever thought it could, combined. Even during my vote for #1 worst part of the show – when Nathan Lane’s character has to refer to ACTUAL PERSON NATHAN LANE/himself as a super-gay famous actor whom he would have understood being cast in something, without cursing out the entire production team for including this awful update and without throwing glass vases at all the laughing audience members who think this is somehow funny – Lane gives his all to deliver every line with all his acting prowess as though it’s the most important play ever. Bravo to him, seriously, because his giving 200% is surprisingly what lets him retain his dignity after this mess ends.
So okay, plot. Oh wait, you got it. These characters wait for the reviews to come in. And not just any reviews, but most importantly the New York Times review from Ben Brantley. This is my vote for Worst Shit #1 (tied), because Ben Brantley is a real person who actually had to review this show. And despite it being terrible, he loved it and gave it a positive review – maybe…juuuuust maybe, because the show exalts him as the most important voice in all of theatre??? You think he liked that?
Breathe. So the characters assemble, and as they wait, they kind of fight, they bicker, they drop so many names. Nathan and Matthew have a big fight because Nathan admits that he didn’t take the part because the play sucks (real Nathan wishes he followed his character’s path?), and Broderick makes big lofty speeches about how commercialized the theatre has become. Listen, I saw this show in previews, so these speeches may have been mercifully cut by opening night (though as far as I can find, they haven’t been), but Broderick’s speeches stopped the show faster and more drastically than a ton of bricks falling from the ceiling could have. It was beyond boring. His delivery copied Ben Stein doing “Bueller…Bueller?”. The actual words mirrored Bob Balaban’s end monologue in “The Lady in the Water”, just replacing ‘movies’ with ‘theatre’. I wonder if M. Night has seen this yet and been alternately thrilled and pissed.
F. Murray Abraham, that fantastic serious actor, plays a total jackwagon of a theatre critic who, despite being stuck in this room with these people, tells them how much they suck and how dumb they are. He also acts kind of like a clown, laughing maniacally and creepily, and you’re just like…how did they cast you, fearsome Dar Adal &c., in this role? I feel bad for him.
Rupert Grint gets the shit end of the stick by far when he has to act out a confrontation with his father…in front of all his work colleagues (not to mention the audience)…with…wait for it…hand puppets. That he had in his pockets. I think it was supposed to be funny, but it was sad, and embarrassing.
Stockard Channing is another Serious Actor whom I felt intense levels of fremdschamen for the entire time. Important note to producers if they find a time machine: Stockard and Mullally should have switched roles. Stockard mostly talks about drugs and drinking while doing drugs and drinking in front of us, and it’s supposed to be funny because haha addition, but it’s not funny because it’s freaking Stockard Channing and you’re like…hey…hey girl...what are ya doing? Meanwhile, Mullally found success and became super famous because of how good she is at making drugs and drinking somehow freaking hilarious. Why on earth was she playing the uber-wealthy producer instead of the crazy actress? Why?
The saving grace of the entire shebang is Micah Stock, long-lost little brother of Billy Eichner. Micah’s coat-check guy comments on all the celebrities partying downstairs with absolutely no cynicism or really knowledge, just pure sincerity, and he’s hilarious and perfect. My favorite part of the show is when he comes up with coats and says a jumble of sounds that somehow you (if you are a theatre aficionado) know is supposed to be ‘Tovah Feldshuh’. Jokes about the Kardashians and Lady Gaga are less welcome, but he does his damnedest to make you laugh. His heavier presence in the beginning is what lets this show start off with a bang, but his diminished presence later on is what lets all the air out.
Despite all this crap it’s kind of fun? I have a feeling people would compare this ‘it’s bad but you still want to watch it’ feeling to “Grease 2”, but G2 is amazing and that would be too high praise. It’s more like “Never Been Kissed”, I’d say. You cringe the entire time and you cover your eyes at most everything that comes out of Drew Barrymore’s mouth, but Michael Vartan is in it and you love him. So…see it? Maybe?