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Monday, November 9, 2015

Great Talent Can Produce Great Flops In Theater Or Book Publishing



What do you expect when you put a Pulitzer Prize/Tony Award-winning writer with an Oscar-winning actor in a Broadway play?  You expect a decent if not great play that would have to work hard at disappointing fans.  I’m here to say that as a witness to a theatrical train wreck, David Mamet and Al Pacino stole the show with their abysmal production.  Literally stole the show, as in I was robbed.  I didn’t see a show; I saw a hoax of a show.

Yes, China Doll was that bad.

How bad?  If you got free tickets, turn them down.  Don’t give them away – that would bring grief upon the recipients.

How bad?  If someone offered to pay you to go, turn the offer down.  Have some respect for yourself and volunteer to clean up raw sewage before swimming in the muck offered up on Broadway.

This is a lesson learned for the consumer.  As soon as I heard a Pacino-Mamet play was coming out, I bought a ticket.  I didn’t need to even know what it was about. My faith in these two genius talents permitted me to open my wallet, no questions asked.  Now I have a lot of questions to ask.

At intermission I asked one of the ushers if the play gets any better.  He paused for a period of time that felt uncomfortable but was telling, and then he blurted out: “Well, it’s still in previews,” as if to say maybe they will make changes and improvements.  This won’t benefit from tweaks.  It needs an overhaul or a merciful cancellation notice.

But it doesn’t work that way.

Big names bring big bank and I read the first week of previews brought in some good coin, probably because people bought in, like me, on the names.  But hopefully reviews like this will dissuade other suckers from dropping a Benjamin or more to see inferior fare that’s far from being Broadway worthy.

So what was so wrong with this play of such promise?  For starters, it was virtually a one-man play.  Two actors occupied a single set for two hours, one of which talked 95% of the time.  I like Pacino but even he can’t keep my attention for 120 minutes all by himself.

The dialogue – if you can call it that – was boring and repetitive, especially in the first half.  The action picked up in the second half, but not enough to justify the long road taken to get there.  To make matters worse, Pacino’s method for delivering his lines was to constantly talk on a cellphone where we only heard his side of the story.  It was just like being on a train where you hear half of an annoying conversation.

The play could be summarized as this: Corrupt businessman wants to leave the game and wed a hot woman whom he knows just wants his money, but just as he tries to “retire,” past transgressions are about to catch up to him. This all sounds like it could be interesting, but it really isn’t.  Not the way this play presented the story.

The first minute of the play was great because you didn’t know of the 119 minutes of disappointment to follow.  All you saw was Pacino, his disheveled self, talking in a raspy voice.  A bad wig was distracting but hey, there was Scarface, Scent of a Woman, and Dog Day Afternoon right in front of me, live.  And he was doing a play by the guy who gave us House of Games, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Untouchables, The Verdict, and The Postman Always Rings Twice.

There was one line in the play that showcased Mamet's brilliance and reminded you of why you would want to see his work. He said: "Everyone wants to get into Heaven but no one wants to die."

The rest was downhill.  It was like finding out there’s no Santa Claus or that your parents are just ordinary, fallible people.  One play just tarnished two distinguished careers.

Okay, you may think I’m being harsh but I’m being kind.  After intermission, the entire row of people to my right and left did not return for Act II.  Additionally, the people in front of me agreed with my out-loud assessment that this play stunk worse than New Jersey does on a damp summer day.  Lesson learned: Don’t see a play because of what performers have done in the past.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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