Friday, September 22, 2006

How Pain-Free Did Critics Find The Pain And The Itch?

How Pain-Free Did Critics Find The Pain And The Itch?

Bruce Norris' dark comedy about affluent white liberal guilt opened last night at New York's Playwrights Horizons Mainstage Theatre to middling reviews.

Calling The Pain And The Itch "a carefully constructed story," Daily News critic Joe Dziemianowicz cites "a delicious Jayne Houdyshell" and notes that the show's "[M]essage isn't all that shocking: Liberals, yes, liberals, just like conservatives, will do anything to protect their self-interests. Anna D. Shapiro (who helmed the Chicago production) directs with clarity and precision, seamlessly shifting scenes between past and present."

Labeling the show a "funny but tough-to-stomach social satire," The New York Times' Charles Isherwood states that The Pain And The Itch is, "Carefully plotted (overplotted, actually) and marked by a savage comic flair, it is nevertheless seriously marred by overstatement, a familiar flaw in the work of writers still finding their aesthetic footing."

Variety's Marilyn Stasio also takes aim at playwright Bruce Norris' writing, noting that he "is skillful at juggling his multiple time frames; he's less so at developing his case against the morally bankrupt know-it-all classes....Not surprisingly, the solid cast does its best work in scenes and snatches of scenes that can stand on their own....Houdyshell brings much-needed intelligence to what is essentially a cartoon version of the clueless mother."

In his review, New York Post's Clive Barnes savages the production saying "As metaphors go, few are as unpleasant as the central one in The Pain and the Itch....While the playwright clearly has serious things on his mind, the characters and situations he's devised here are facile and unconvincing."

The Pain And The Itch is scheduled to play at Playwrights Horizons' Mainstage through October 8.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Itching to Open in New York (September 21, 2006)
Houdyshell Itching to Reprise Steppenwolf Role Off-Broadway (July 11, 2006)
The Pain And The Itch Slated for New York Run (June 7, 2006)
Flashback: Best of 2002-03 (May 24, 2006)

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At 22 September, 2006, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

I think one reason why this show, which purposely makes its audiences squirm, has taken its share of hits from the critics is its daring to pull no punches when it comes to deriding hypocritcal behavior among so-called liberals. If the show was instead a scathing indictment of conservatives, I'm sure it would have been more heralded by critics. But hold a mirror to them, and it's a different story.

Bruce Norris' more recent work, "The Unmentionables," is much more effective at balancing its shots at both liberals and conservative. As a self-described moderate, I delighted in seeing both lampooned.


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