Shows,shopping and a snake in Times Square.
By Charlie Huisking
When I go to New York to see theater, I usually don't gravitate to comedies. But two light-hearted shows on Broadway are generating so much buzz right now, I couldn't resist.
The 39 Steps is an uproarious sendup of the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock thriller starring Robert Donat as the British hero who gets caught up in an espionage ring. Four actors portray dozens of characters, from mysterious women in distress to spies, porters and Scotland Yard detectives. Standing on a nearly bare stage, the hard-working cast uses minimal props and set pieces to convince you they're on a train speeding through the Scottish moors one minute and racing through the streets of London the next.
The 39 Steps, currently playing on Broadway.
The script contains some sly references to several other Hitchcock films, including Psycho and Vertigo. There's even a shadow-puppet re-enactment of the crop-duster chase scene from North By Northwest.
Despite the theatricality and the inventive nature of the production, my attention was fading by the end of Act Two. I would have trimmed the show to 90 minutes and performed it without an intermission.
I was skeptical of Boeing, Boeing, the revival of the French farce that lasted only 25 performances on Broadway in the 1960s. But with a pitch-perfect cast, this production is a hilarious, fizzy delight.
Boeing, Boeing starring Christine Baranski, Mark Rylance and Bradley Whitford.
It's set in the Paris apartment of an American cad (Bradley Whitford) who is dating three airline stewardesses simultaneously. His carefully choreographed romantic life turns chaotic when a bumbling friend comes to visit.
Mark Rylance earned the 2008 Tony Award for Best Actor as the friend, and he is brilliant. He got some of his biggest laughs for his deadpan expressions and his physical comedy, coming off as a cross between Stan Laurel and Buster Keaton. Mary McCormack almost stole the show as the hot-blooded German stewardess.
New York impressions: I love the energy you feel when you leave a Broadway theater and join the crowd heading for Times Square. Along the way, audiences empty out of other theaters, and you pick up snippets of information and gossip about the shows they have just seen.
Though Times Square is more antiseptic than it used to be, with The Disney Store replacing the porno shops, it's still a great place to watch the parade pass by. On one corner, a guy was charging people to touch his big snake. (Hey, get your mind out of the gutter-- it was a real snake.)
On another corner, a crowd surrounded a guy selling knock-off Rolexes. And tourists were sitting patiently in front of caricature artists. I wonder what makes a visitor to Times Square at midnight think, "Gee, I've always wanted an unflattering drawing of myself. Why not now?"
You'd never know there was a recession, judging by the people coming out of Fifth Avenue clothing and jewelry stores weighed down with parcels. Of course, many of them had British, French and Italian accents and were clearly taking advantage of the falling dollar.
At the Abercrombie & Fitch flagship store, the crowds were so large that they needed a rope line and a bouncer to limit access. Shirtless male models in Abercrombie jeans stood at the store entrance, smiling coyly and perhaps causing the line to get longer.