Archive for March 9th, 2015

Review – Closer – Donmar Theater

March 9, 2015

I haven’t been to the Donmar much lately – it seems like I get shut out of most of the shows they do these days and have been ever since they raised the bar for being a “friend” and switched to the £10 Monday scheme. But somehow I managed to get a ticket to Closer – two, even – which I snatched up without even bothering to find out what the show was about.

So. There are two men and two women. They meet initially by chance – Dan takes Alice to a hospital where Larry works – but chemistry (and, seemingly, fate) conspire to see them dating. Dan initially seems wonderful – a thoughtful, kind man who doesn’t want to abandon the waif hit by a car – while Alice seems hard: manipulative, deceitful, a user who’s lived life hard and takes whatever she can stuff in her grabby hands, happy to use her looks to even out the poor deal life gave her. She makes a play for Dan – and suddenly he’s going from boring sub editor to Mr Throw Caution to the Wind. What? I found it hard to believe he’d risk losing his job for a shag, and even harder to believe he’d throw over his girlfriend for someone he’s just caught stealing from him. It just didn’t make sense.

We fast forward to a few years, and Dan is getting a photo taken for the novel he’s just written that fictionalizes Alice’s life. He’s been with her for a few years now, and yet suddenly he’s making a pass at the photographer Anna and telling her she’s the love of his life. At this point I gave up hope for this play. People aren’t constantly changing who they are based on random sexual impulses: if this were the case, you’d see people going Jekyll/Hyde/Jekyll/Hyde as they walk down the street. I feel the intrigues that developed between the characters – some due to the men’s inability to handle jealousy in any sort of mature fashion, others due to the women’s brutal pragmatism – generally held water, and there were some nice speeches about sexuality, relationships, and the workings of the human mind that might stand up over time. But this play felt entirely pasted together by someone who seemed to have ideas and situations that they wanted to make scenes out of rather than written by someone who actually understands people. For that, I’d say go see My Night With Reg, which said more with a few minutes of silence than this play did with all of its high energy dialogue. Really, Closer is entirely a waste of time and a talented cast, and I’m pretty sure it’ll die a death soon enough and join the piles of scripts that were forgotten by history as not worth the effort to produce again, once people get past their obsession with internet chat rooms and what happens when you go backstage at a strip club.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Thursday, March 5, 2015. It continues through April 4th.)

Review – Lardo – Old Red Lion Pub Theater

March 9, 2015

With my white trash American background, I have a bit of a soft spot for professional wrestling – although admittedly it’s due to Mexican wrestling rather than WWF. So I was excited when I heard about the play Lardo, currently premiering at the Old Red Lion theater. A fat Scottish boy wants to live his dream of being a professional wrestler? With visions of deep fried Mars bars, acres of spandex, and slamming Irn-Bru in my head, I eagerly awaited opening night (well, really, the day after, but close enough).

I walk upstairs into the theater space, and bam! It’s been transformed. The walls are painted in primary colors – including blue for the Scottish flag and red for some lockers – and the entire area has been taken over by a wrestling wring (with the same blue on the ropes). I wonder how it’s all going to work, because either all of it’s actually taking place in and next to the ring, or … well, that big square piece obviously isn’t going anywhere. And as the story opens, we’ve got the protagonist, Lardo (Daniel Buckley, like a round male Judy Garland all ready to use the barn to put on a show), running around in front of the ring while his girlfriend, Kelly (Laura Daral), shoots videos of him on her cell phone. He’s busy promoting himself as a wrestling superstar, although (we discover) all he really has is a persona and a dream – he’s never spent a minute in the ring. Then suddenly his girlfriend asks him to be careful and not step in the sea turtle eggs … what? Oh, I get it, they’re supposed to be outside. As the show evolves, it becomes clear that, for all that it looms, the boxing ring has more flexibility than I expected, serving nicely both as a living room and a bedroom in other scenes.

But the show and the stage truly come to life when it’s time for Tartan Wrestling Madness!!! (which has to be spelled with exclamation marks). Lardo believably talks himself into a show – with some help from a health and safety inspector who bigs him up to “ringmaster” Stairs (Nick Karimi) – and then takes his comic relief spotlight and turns it into star billing. It all happens pretty fast, but what winds up pulling you in is the development of personal relationships between the various wrestlers in Stairs’ stable (a crazy seeming blonde named Whiplash Mary and an old friend of Lardo’s, Wee Man), whose lives become intertwined with Lardo’s. Meanwhile, Stair’s hunger for money is pulling ahead of any concern whatsoever for the welfare of the people who are effectively his employees – and the stunts are starting to seem a bit too real.

In fact, the fourth wall really starts to tumble down during this show, as we, the audience, are sucked in to the drama (who woulda thunk it) of amateur wrestling. The throws seems real, there’s no doubt that bruise on poor Buckley’s shoulder was real, and before you know it, the entire environment seems real. We are at a wrestling match and Lardo needs our support. He’s funny, he’s got great stage presence, and you just can’t help wanting him to win. And before you know it, that feeling is spreading to the whole production. You want Lardo to make it out alive, you want him to get things fixed with his girlie, and you want him to actually live up to the plus size dreams he has for his life. In the end I was pretty amazed – I walked in thinking I was going to be having a laugh and wound up being caught up emotionally with what was going on. I can’t even blame the Irn-Bru. Lardo is a knee-twisting, full body slam good time and just a damned good night out. Don’t miss it.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Friday, March 6, 2015. Lardo is booking through March 29th. By the way, Nick Karimi looks super fine when he rips his shirt off for the final wrestling bout. You have been warned.)