Monday, January 28, 2013

Disappointing Shows This Weekend in Grand Rapids

We started with “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” at the Civic Theatre Saturday night, and what a disappointment it was. The actors were fine and did the best they could do with the material, which is the problem.

The story is lifeless and plot lines are eviscerated. Relationships and characters are undeveloped and we really don’t care about them. Singer’s soliloquy at the end is an attempt to tie things together and explain what we’ve just seen, but it’s too little, too late.

Ten reasonably intelligent people were in our group, and one understood what we were seeing (because I was the only one familiar with the 1968 movie). Thankfully we had a lovely pre-show dinner at Cottage Bar so the evening was not a total loss. 

Watch the movie of the same name and you’ll come away with a much richer appreciation of this story. The sign language placement in the movie is so well done that no projections or subtitles are ever used, unlike this production. Mick (Sondra Locke) and Singer (Alan Arkin) were both Oscar-nominated performances.
The 1940 novel is by Carson McCullers, the 1968 screenplay is by Thomas C. Ryan, and  this adaptation is by Rebecca Gilman. The program states that Gilman’s “plays are typified by economy of language and an unflinching desire to make her characters honest rather than idyllic.”  This “economy of language” has decimated the story lines, and these “honest” characters are without depth.  

But on to Sunday afternoon that brought me to Flashdance at DeVos. I’m a big fan of musicals and love powerful singing/dancing numbers, and they are present here. Generally based on the 1983 movie, this production has yet to hit Broadway.

The basic musical numbers and story are still here but suddenly we have Vegas showgirls and their stories, ear-popping loud music, and way too much skin and gratuitous body writhing. The flashing and strobe lights were killers but there were warning signs in the lobby.

I pity the mothers who took their very young daughters to this show and were treated to “Manhunt”, complete with male dancers gyrating in animal masks and tights. Yes, girl makes good in the end and gets with Prince Charming, and both of them are incredibly talented actors. Emily Padgett plays Alex and Matthew Hydzik is Nick Hurley (son of her boss, and her love interest). He is more natural with the dialogue and she is an amazing dancer. "Justice" was an outstanding number feature Hydzik.

Overall, it’s not a good show and I can see why it's winding its way through the country before it attempts Broadway. Dialogue is mostly stilted but I think that’s more the fault of the script than the actors. The Maniac reprise that closes Act One provides the classic Flashdance image. Maybe it will all be improved by the time it hits Broadway...