Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Comic Stage Notes

The Book of Mormon is actually worth the hype. From the creators of South Park, this new Broadway musical guarantees to offend everyone. Mormonism joins the long list of religions ridiculed on South Park, but the Mormons themselves are portrayed sympathetically as big-hearted characters of faith. They are totally unprepared for the grizzly realities of a warlord-dominated village in Uganda. The troubles of Africa, from AIDS to dysentery and female circumcision, are the subject of catchy musical numbers.

Somehow The Book of Mormon manages to be both hilarious and culturally sensitive. The irreverent humor reminded me of Monty Python but American. My parents enjoyed it as much as my teenaged children. The whole audience was roaring with laughter throughout the entire production. Thank you, Marika, for telling me to get tickets before it opened as they are now very hard to get.

Our best pre-theater meal was at Sushi of Gari on 46th St. We strongly recommend the Omakase, chef's choice sushi tasting menu. What the small, narrow restaurant lacks in atmosphere it makes up for in extraordinary food served quickly. There are also cooked non-fish dishes for the less adventurous, but even my 16-year-old son loved this sushi. It was some of the best sushi we've had, even including Japan.

Another Broadway comedy well worth seeing is The Importance of Being Earnest. Set in late Victorian England, this is a timeless satire of the upper classes and social conventions. Brian Bedford both directs and plays the role of Lady Bracknell. Bedford did such an excellent job that my parents didn’t realize that he was a man. The acting overall was superb, especially David Furr as Jack/Earnest. The real star, however, was the playwright, Oscar Wilde. There were so many witty and memorable lines such as:
“To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both looks like carelessness.”
“It is absurd to have a hard and fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn’t. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn’t read.”
It was especially good for my daughter to observe a man playing a woman because she is playing the romantic male lead in a Shakespeare play. It’s quite a challenge for a 13-year-old girl to become an Italian man. In NYC we scanned the sidewalks for men to imitate.

Back in Maine, one of her classmates tutored my daughter and her stage twin on how to walk like a guy. Another trick was getting boy boots for my graceful dancer. She now clunks around in her Doc Martens. There were also lessons in stage fighting, slapstick and fencing. I was prepared for my daughter to grow into a woman but not to see her become a macho man. Parenting has so many surprises!

For you fans of satire, David Furr (Earnest/Jack) and Santino Fontana (Algeron) perform in character "Jersey Shore Gone Wilde" in the YouTube clip below. Warning: adult language, this is the actual transcript of "Jersey Shore" from Oscar Wilde's perspective.

Here's the link @Playbill to see parts 2-5 of Jersey Shore Gone Wilde.


David Cranmer said...

I recently watched a documentary on Oscar Wilde and would find The Importance of Being Earnest play interesting. That a play/story is still relevant after 100 years is a testament to the author's skill.

A Cuban In London said...

I read about The Book of Mormon a few weeks ago in The New Yorker and the review had me in stitches. Imagine if I was to watch the play!

I first saw 'The Importance of Being Earnest' in uni. It was performed by amateur actors and actresses, amongst which were some of our lecturers. To say that it had a big, massive impact on me, would be the understatement of the century.

I love Wilde's prose. But above all, I love his humour. Many thanks for your reviews. I enjoyed them very much.

Greetings from London.

Unknown said...


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Sarah Laurence said...

David, I was impressed with how timeless his humor was.

ACIL, I was laughing through both plays. The humor in Mormons was more crude and unexpected but Earnest was wittier.

Carly, there is a contact form on my website - click on the color photo of me in the sidebar. I do not accept promotions or advertising.

Amanda Summer said...

the book of mormon sounds like a hoot - my daughter in nyc will love to know about it, although i'll make sure she's prewarned about the scarcity of tickets.

congrats on your daughter's upcoming role - hopefully will look for it as the subject of an upcoming post!

Sarah Laurence said...

Amanda, your daughter should definitely go see it. My daughter doesn't want me to say much about her acting, sadly. I do try to respect my children's privacy as it must be embarrassing having a blogging mom. I'll share what I can.

Booksnyc said...

I have heard great things about The Book of Mormon - I need to get tickets. I am seeing The House of Blue Leaves (w/ Ben Stiller and Edie Falco) in a couple of weeks but I don't see nearly enough shows considering B'way is in my backyard. I am glad you had a good visit to the city.

elizabeth said...

Have just had the chance to look at "Jersey Shore gone Wilde."
It really is very funny indeed.
I think people imagine English people are more witty than they are just because of the delivery.
Am feeling rather pro-English, oddly, because of the wedding. How peculiar is that!!?

Bee said...

I've never seen Jersey Shore, but when said with a British accent some of the "witticisms" really do sound like bon mots.

Did your daughter watch the Royal Wedding? When I was watching Prince Harry walk up the aisle I was thinking that he has a particularly masculine swagger. Perhaps your daughter can imitate that!

I think that sushi was practically the only food that we didn't eat/enjoy in the U.S. I must revisit your Oxford postings and see what you recommend a bit nearer to me.

How goes the final edit? Very busy week back home for me -- with nonstop company and entertaining on the two long weekends. Catch up with you soon!

cynthia said...

Sounds like a wonderful trip to the city. Any museums?

And I agree with Bee--I noticed the same thing about Harry's walk.

Sarah Laurence said...

Booknyc, I wish I could see The House of Blue Leaves too. Oddly enough, I see more theater and art than my friends with kids who stayed in NYC. There is less urgency when you live there. Also I’m on vacation with time for entertainment. I’ve even been known to plan a special trip to the city to see a play.

Elizabeth, I thought you’d like that clip. The wedding enchanted me too. I’m so caught up in England, what with my WIP set there, I have to remind myself to drive on the right side of the road.

Bee, I was surprised by how witty those lines were, but I’m in no rush to see the real Jersey Shore. So much is in the accent and those lads (Americans!) are actually putting it on. My daughter and her friend watched the royal wedding rebroadcast on Saturday and loved it. She laughed when I mentioned your advice on Prince Harry’s walk, as did I. So true! There is a good Japanese restaurant in Oxford (under the best lunch in Oxford post) but I don’t think it serves sushi. The final edit is off to a good start, thanks. This will be a busy month for me too, but I’m looking forward to catching up with you too.

Cynthia, we saw a fabulous exhibit of modern art around WWI at the Guggenheim Museum all from their personal collection. I also took my daughter and her friend shopping in the village (and read my Kindle in Forever 21 – I’m more than twice 21!) My next NYC post will be about the Bronx Botanical Gardens.

walk2write said...

I'll always be in awe of Mr. Wilde. I took a drama class my freshman year of high school, and The Importance of Being Earnest was the first play we worked on performing. All of the nerves settled down when the characters came to life on stage. One of his best works, though, is a dialogue he wrote called The Decay of Lying. It should be required reading for any writing class.

Your vacation in NYC sounds wonderful. I would be overwhelmed with all of the choices. What to see and where to go? It would be nice to have a month or more to experience it.

☆sapphire said...

Hello Sarah

Sounds like a lovely vacation!!

I only watched a 2002 film adaptation of "The Importance of Being~" on DVD. The costumes and settings are gorgeous. Rupert Everett and Colin Firth are wonderful together. It made me smile at a scence where Judi Dench bluntly asks about Jack's annual income.

"We strongly recommend the Omakase~” Hmmmmmm, I too believe that Omakase is the best choice!!

Hana Njau-Okolo said...

Interesting reviews. And what fun - the scanning of men to imitate on the streets of New York. That's what I miss most, the pedestrian life of NYC; here in the ATL 'burbs, hardly anyone walks the streets. It is getting better though, with the funding of sidewalks, etc. I bet she'll have a swagger down pat in no time. With those Doc Martens too...?!

Thought about you when I listened to this week's Guardian Books Podcast...

Anonymous said...

Sarah, once I saw a movie based on Oscar Wilde's authobiography and was surprised by the story of his life. The movie left quite sad feelings and impressions in me.
BTW I feel quite ashamed that I have never read or seen The Importance of Being Earnest, although the title is quite familiar to me... it's such a classic piece! Your post has inspired me to try and change this. :-)

Rose said...

The video was hilarious, Sarah! I watched "Jersey Shores" once with my youngest daughter--once was more than enough for me:) Oscar Wilde would have had a field day with those characters, wouldn't he? I've never heard of "The Book of Mormon," but then I'm usually behind the times when it comes to Broadway shows. The subject matter certainly doesn't sound like the stuff of a musical, but your review makes it sound like a winner.

How interesting that your daughter is playing a male character--Shakespeare in reverse:) Good for her!

Donna said...

I'm Mormon and have heard and read so much about this musical. At first I was really offended by what I heard about it and it made me angry that my religion was being mocked yet again, but it sounds like it may not be as offensive as I thought. I have to admit that I had been hoping it wouldn't do well, but for better or worse, that hasn't been the case at all!

Sarah Laurence said...

All, I’m sorry to be so late to respond to your thoughtful comments and recommendations. It has been a busy month!

W2W, I haven’t read Wilde’s The Decay of Lying. Thanks for the recommendation. I go back to NYC at least twice a year but even so I run out of time to do everything and see everbody.

Sapphire, I shall have to check out that movie as I love both of those actors. Thanks!

MS, I agree about the appeal of street life in NYC. I will check out that link – thanks!

Petra, Wilde is well worth checking out. Enjoy!

Rose, one view of Jersey Shore would be enough, but I was impressed by how witty some of the lines were in these sketches. My daughters play went very well, thank you! She managed quite a good sword fight too.

Donna, thanks for giving your reaction as a Mormon and for having an open mind. I’d be especially interested in the reaction of Mormons who saw it, especially if they were familiar with the creators other works. They have made fun of every religion, including mine and I laughed along with it. I can also understand that others would find such material too offensive to be funny.