Thursday, October 1, 2009

s'Newz occasional series of stories which recently caught my eye...
This is the theatre story that just keeps on giving. For some reason, I have had a fascination with the ongoing, drawn-out Jeremy Piven On Broadway saga. I can't explain it, I don't even like the guy. Maybe that's why. Anyway, I reported a while ago that the matter was finally settled in arbitration: Piven did not break his contract with Broadway's Speed-the-Plow when he bolted the production claiming mercury poisoning. Once again, I spoke too soon. Some clever satirists pulled together an evening of comedy surrounding the events and called it The Piven Monologues (the title is a clever take-off on that other evening of speechifying, centering around a woman' splendor). The show was authored, if that's the word, by a couple of participants of the Public Theatre's Emerging Writers Group, and is apparently a composite of some of the comments to Piven's actions which were published on the Internet:

“My understanding is that he is leaving show business to pursue a career as a thermometer.”-David Mamet, Variety, December 2008

“However, it is not known whether he is an oral or rectal one. I can guess. LOL.” “Larry”, January, 2009, random website, the Internet.

Here is the blurb explaining the show: "When Jeremy Piven made his abrupt exit from the Broadway production of Speed-the-Plow due to the alleged illness of mercury poisoning, Mr. Mamet may have been the first to comment – but he was by no means the last. In this new age of instant global communication, no matter how minor the story or how wacky the rumor, everyone gets to have their say. THE PIVEN MONOLOGUES presents a selection of the shitstorm in a very special staged reading."

The show ran one performance at Joe's Pub in Manhattan on September 14. Piven wasted no time; his lawyers sent a Cease and Desist order the next day, and issued this statement: “We didn’t say you cannot do the play, we said you can’t make defamatory statements about our client.” It looks like the producers feel confident that they can withstand further legal action, as the second performance of the piece is still on the Joe's Pub calendar, in the late-night slot on October 2.

Now that Piven has been shielded from any further legal action on the part of the producers he screwed, he ought to just shut up about the incident. Or better yet, he should get his ass to New York and sit in one of the front tables at Joe's, and laugh his head off at the show. Or even better, he should offer to actually appear in the thing; it would go a long way to rehabilitate his tattered reputation.
There are a couple of other stories to come out of New York lately which I find interesting. After a six year Broadway run, during which it won the Tony for Best Musical, Avenue Q has closed. But not for long. The show began its life Off-Broadway in 2003, and in what I think may be a one-of-a-kind move, it's returning to its roots. I have never seen the show; the national tour swept through DC a while ago, but I didn't get there. It's a story of urban living told with Henson-like puppets and Sesame Street-like tunes, but it's decidedly adult. Wicked, the show which Avenue Q beat on Tony night, continues to pack 'em in on Broadway and on tour, while the Q's Vegas production closed prematurely, and its national tour was a disappointment. It was struggling with small houses for many months before it closed on Broadway, but I have a hunch it will continue to draw crowds Off-Broadway for years to come. Other shows hope to make the leap onto Broadway; Avenue Q is making a bit of history by going in the opposite direction.

Did you hear that there will, finally, be a Broadway revival of A Little Night Music? I wrote a while ago how odd it was, that this Sondheim favorite has never had a new production. The late Natasha Richardson headlined a staged reading of the piece earlier this year, with her mother Vanessa Redgrave playing her mother in the show. Now, a new, full production has been announced with Catherine Zeta-Jones in the lead (she'll warble Sondheim's most famous tune, "Send in the Clowns") and Angela Lansbury will be swiping the show as her mother. Perpetual Anticipation pays off!
Here's another New York Show Biz story, this one from the world of the soaps. Actress Patricia Mauceri has been a supporting player on One Life to Live for over a decade, but when her character became part of a gay storyline (her son on the show came out), she balked. She approached the producers, telling them her character would never support a gay son; she was promptly replaced. She is now contemplating legal action. She has told Fox News (who else?) that she was fired for her own personal religious convictions, which consider homosexuality an abomination. Sorry lady, you were fired because you refused to speak the lines provided to you by the writers of the show. Your own personal homophobic bigotry had nothing to do with it.

This story is rather an old one, but I left it in my inbox because it made me so angry. You probably heard the story when it was breaking news weeks ago. Some old gent was shopping at Walmart in an Atlanta suburb when he became irritated with the constant crying of a two year old. He approached the mother and warned her to quiet the kid, or he would. The mother, with that typical attitude that so many mothers have these days (that she is entitled to break social conventions simply because she gave birth), ignored the warning (and also ignored the screaming baby). The guy, Roger Stephens, fulfilled his promise and slapped the child. He was arrested for felony cruelty to children.

This story drives me nuts. It is another illustration of the complete lack of consideration which parents routinely force upon the rest of the world. "Hey, I've got a stroller, so my needs, wants, and conveniences trump yours." This arrogant mother should have attempted to control her child and, failing that, should have taken the kid out of the building. I'm sure any suggestion of such a thing to her would have been met with incredulity. "I'm a mother! This is my child! You have to put up with whatever we do!" I don't think this poor old coot should have been arrested. I also don't think he should have hit the child. He should have slapped the mother instead.

I have to go back to Broadway for this last story, which is a new chapter in a story which seems to be getting worse. Hugh Jackman was in previews for his new show last week, a non-musical two-hander which costars Daniel Craig. Some jerk's cell phone went off during one of his dramatic speeches, and, as you can see from the clip below, he decided not to try to compete with the distraction:

As you saw, once Jackman brought attention to the interruption, the phone continued to ring. The owner was obviously too embarrassed to reach into her purse and hit the mute button, so instead she held the entire production hostage with her inconsiderate actions. (You may note that, though I never saw the perp, I am calling her a woman. I wonder how many times over the years I have witnessed a cellphone going off during a performance...I bet it's close to a hundred. And the offending cellphone always belongs to a woman. Always. ALWAYS.)

Anyway, The New York Times reports that Daniel Craig was interrupted by the exact same thing during a previous performance; like his costar Jackman, he halted the show until the ringing stopped.

Months ago, when Patti Lupone was getting such flack for stopping her show to harangue against someone taking pictures, she gave interviews saying that the number one problem in live theatres today was the intrusion of ill-mannered audience members with their cameras, cellphones, texting, and the like. This is not, of course, just a problem in New York, it happens in every theatre everywhere. My buddy and sometime boss Warner Crocker published a note on one of the websites to which he regularly contributes. He mentions Jackman's actions, and relates it to an incident at his own theatre, Wayside. I was in the audience at the performance Warner references; a cellphone went off, and instead of immediately silencing the thing, the owner (guess what? It was a woman) allowed it to continue to ring as she made her way up the aisle to the lobby. (This was a loud, intrusive ring-tone, so loud that I wondered if Robert E. Lee, a character in the play, was getting a phone call from the White House.) This woman then answered the phone, in full voice, and talked for a minute in the lobby, which is not soundproofed. We heard every word. A few moments later, the damn phone rang again; this cow had asked somebody to call her back, but instead of placing her phone on "vibrate," or, God forbid, stepping out onto the sidewalk, she answered the call and had a conversation in the lobby, with the whole audience listening in.

Really, people? Are you actually that important? That you must be available to answer your phone every minute of every day? Are you a heart surgeon, waiting for a donor for your transplant? Are you an expectant father, waiting for your wife's water to break? Are you an actor waiting to hear if you got the gig? If you do not fit into one of the above three categories, your cellphone should be OFF.

Amidst my anger over this kind of thing, I admit I got a giggle from Warner's post. Well, not the post, exactly, but the site onto which it was submitted. Warner contributes notes to a site called "" His vote against inconsiderate cellphone users appeared on a website which celebrates the fact that we all, everywhere, everyplace, are now accessible to everybody else, and ought to be! Warner's note has received a dozen or so comments, all supporting his views. But I wonder how many other readers of a site called GOTTA Be Mobile feel that irritating entitlement which goes something like, "I'm Mobile and Connected and Entitled to Prove It. And if the guy sitting next to me disagrees, screw him." I Gotta Be Mobile!

This final picture needs no explanation: