January 15th, 2009

La Loge

Sleaze in the 30's

TDF tix to Pal Joey tonight, with vschanoes, way up in nosebleed territory, Mezzanine row JJ. You can really see the blocking from there, I'll give it that, even though everyone seems very, very small.

I loved it. Pal Joey is not a nice play, a feel-good play, or even a particularly cheerful play. There's anger, loads of cynicism, and enough lust to start a conflagration. I don't remember "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered," in the standard version, being quite so overtly sexy. And indeed, when I checked out the lyrics that Ella Fitzgerald sang, there are some notable, if subtle changes for the blander. The way Stockard Channing sang it, it sizzled.

Maybe the reason I liked this production so much was that the women ran away with it. The guy playing Joey (Matthew Risch) is a lightweight.. He's a good dancer, a competent singer, a reasonable actor. But he's no corruscating talent. He's not a star. He's not quite as charming as I think the script suggests he should be, but really, it doesn't matter. Every woman in the play knows he's basically a loser and a cad. Two songs say it all: the aforementioned "Bewitched" and "Take Him," in which each of the two love interests gives the other her blessing. Clearly, this guy is good in the sack, but a total loss in every other facet of a relationship. What makes him dangerous is not that he's a horn-dog mysogynist, but that he's a sociopath. He wouldn't recognize a decent impulse if it bit him on the . . . nose.

Which is why watching Channing and Plimpton was such a joy. They made choices, some of them terrible, some of them dictated by being female in the 1930's, some of them dictated by their characters, and they dealt with them, took responsibility for them, lived with them in a way that Joey couldn't imagine--even the woman playing Linda English--a very self-possessed Jenny Fellner.

Also, I loved the slang. 30's slang? The cat's meow.

Plant you now, cats. Dig you later.