Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Wallace & vomit?

I sometimes find myself in Manhattan. I found myself there last January through May, interning for a prominent national entertainment weekly (how cryptic). I found myself there in October to see Elaine Stritch, Woody Allen and Sweeney Todd. And I found myself there this past weekend to see a bizarre trio of folks: Wallace Shawn, Phylicia Rashad and Cynthia Nixon. Let us ponder the shortest, squealiest of them.

Wallace Shawn. So I didn't actually see him, but Shawn and his brother Allen have finally produced The Music Teacher, a play-opera (plopera?) of theirs that's been shelved for decades, at the Minetta Lane Theatre in the Village. It's a blithering/fascinating trainwreck. Shawn is like a more specific Woody Allen: nebbish, monologue-ish, but focused purely on existential matters (whereas Woody broadens his nerves to romance and pop culture). Sometimes Shawn and Allen work together, and the result is good.

I recently watched Shawn's Vanya on 42nd Street, a pseudo-experimental bit of theatre-film (thilm?) that gave us Julianne Moore (can you believe she's just now readying her Broadway debut?). Vanya is a satisfactory experiment that halfway succeeds, and The Music Teacher is a satisfactory experiment that fully fails. Both are steered by the same narrative force -- a vastly preoccupied man vocalizing absurdist concerns about his place in the universe -- and both emerge half-baked, quasi-realized, etc. Now I'm starting to write like Shawn, so it's time to stop. I'm going to go play with my My Dinner with Andre action figures.

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