Sunday, November 22, 2009

Top of the Heap

Performance Date: 11.08.09
The Gallery Players

These posts get harder to write each week.  Not because the shows I see lack anything to write about, but because my writings all start to sound the same to me.  For example, here’s the opening bit I just prepared about seeing Top of the Heap at Gallery Players:
“I love musicals.  Not everyone does.  Some can’t get over the and now I break into song aspect.  Me?  I break into song every day of my life so musicals don’t seem so far-fetched.”
Not bad, right?  It’s clever and charming and a nice set up to delve deeper into the show, which I enjoyed.  Absolutely nothing wrong with that.  But for some reason it feels stale, this week, to continue on in this way.  Maybe it won’t next time, but right now it does.  Which makes now a good opportunity to reflect a little bit on what am I doing here?

My secondary mission for this blog is “to discover if it’s possible to write about art without reviewing it.” I suppose it’s debatable how well I’ve kept to this mission so far, but I feel good about how it’s going.  I’ve steered clear of feasting on clever barbs when I’ve encountered something I don’t like, and I’ve mostly kept to my personal experience of a show, rather than to sustain some illusion that what I’m doing is objective reporting.  Good job, Anna, in my view.  But now the question becomes – so what else is there to write about?  When it comes to this Year of Plays, what else can I explore next to positive commentary, benign criticism, and personal experience?

I’m not sure, and I won’t be turning the ship sharply in this post.  But it’s a bee in my bonnet as I move forward.

Now, back to Top of the Heap.  It’s a new musical set in 1955 Brooklyn about an aspiring comedian and his partner who scheme for their big break on a popular, Ed Sullivan-esque variety show.  With that bee still in my bonnet, though perhaps not buzzing too loudly yet, here’s a download from my brain:

  • Cream-puff pastel dresses on cooing backup singer spokesladies.

  • Takes place just as live television is turning to video tape, and makes me think of The Farnsworth Invention (about the previous transition from radio to live TV), even though innovation isn't the focus in Heap.  It has that end-of-an-era feel.

  • Enjoyed sitting next to an old cast mate from one of the Gallery shows I’ve done.  Hadn’t seen him in long time and we talked about Italy.

  • Also hadn’t seen the director in a while, a friend and long-time colleague.  Felt good to tell him I liked the show.

  • Back to innovations – what is it about these seeming miracles of technology that make for such great storytelling?

  • Fantastic lead with a voice that seemed amplified beyond nature’s reason, even though he had no microphone.

  • Blowsy broad of a supporting actress, a little reminiscent of Allison Janney.  Wonder if blowsy broad could be one place I’m headed?
Hm, alright.  End of download.  Me and the bee are gonna discuss it now for a while.


  1. What I find interesting here is when you apply your perspective as a working actor as a filter to your experience of the plays. You discuss things that reviewers do not discuss. Their function is to help consumers screen their choices (you may not like theater reviewers but you probably do like Zagat's). Your function is to help us go where no man has gone before, nor woman neither. Sometimes this gets technical, which I find interesting, and other times it gets philosophical, which I find fascinating. This last entry, however, did neither, which I found disappointing. I say, trust your first instincts and go with them.

  2. This is good feedback, thank you. I do feel the most "zing" when I write posts that drift towards the technical and philosophical. That is, it does feel to be where I have most opportunity to contribute something of myself and my voice. It helps to hear your definition of a reviewer's function as well as your feeling that what I've been doing has been distinct from that.