Friday, October 12, 2007

Critics Check-In To The Ritz

Critics Check-In To The Ritz

Last evening, the second revival of Terrence McNally's The Ritz opened at Studio 54. With one notable exception, critics on the whole seemed more eager for their check-out.

Hailing the revival as "even funnier" this go round in his three-and-a-half star review, New York Post's Clive Barnes is the most solidly positive: "McNally's written the best (Georges) Feydeau farce since Feydeau, where eccentrics in seedy hotels chase one another wildly in search of love, or at least sex, in a merry-go-round of misunderstanding....Director Joe Mantello, always in tune with McNally, has gotten a perfect ensemble performance. The adorable (Kevin) Chamberlin is pitch-perfect as Proclo....But if you need just one reason to visit The Ritz, I can give it to you in two words: Rosie Perez."

Calling it a "spirited if essentially hollow revival," Rob Kendt in Newsday offers a tepid review: "Of course, The Ritz doesn't run on such poignance but on Swiss-watch comic timing. At its best, Mantello's cast whirls around Scott Pask's multi-storied set like figures on a cuckoo-clock face, with the fey, needy Chris (Brooks Ashmanskas) as a kind of benign ringmaster. But for all the spring in its step, the play can't help but show its age."

While noting that the "hilarity seems a little forced," the Associated Press' Justin Bergman offers a mildly positive review: "McNally captured that 1970s underground gay sex scene so remarkably well, it feels fresh and lively three decades later. This probably has as much to do with the Roundabout Theatre Company's ambitious restaging of The Ritz on Broadway, though, as it does with McNally's play. The Roundabout has assembled a delightful cast, including Rosie Perez, Kevin Chamberlin and former gay porn star Ryan Idol who looks far too comfortable dressed only in a sheer white towel."

Dismissing it as a "sporadically funny revival," The New York Times' Ben Brantley sniffs: "Well, yesterday’s dirt, as is often the case, has become today’s dust. This latest revival of The cute, cuddly and often oddly inert....Stripped of the amyl-nitrite-scented clouds of novelty that clung to it 32 years ago, the show is exposed as a friendly, conventional sitcom for the stage. And though it features ace performances by Ms. Perez and by Kevin Chamberlin as a visitor from the planet of the heteros, Joe Mantello’s direction rarely revs up to the dizzy velocity that farce demands."

Complaining "how seldom the fitfully funny comedy gets off the ground," Joe Dziemianowicz of New York's Daily News writes: "Director Joe Mantello is aces at creating still moments....Mantello is less skillful when things are in motion. Slapstick chases and physical business, like when Googie accosts Proclo on a bed, are clumsy. What should be airy ends up a cement soufflé. Chamberlin, a fine comic actor, sets the wrong tone. He's too low-key lovable and not jangled enough. Perez injects Spanglish, spark and spunk, especially in her intentionally off-key medley, a scene that now suffers from been- there, seen-this, a million times."

Lamenting that its original "outrageousness now feels a little mummified," David Rooney of Variety pans: "Terrence McNally's 1975 comedy mostly groans along as a pallid echo of a time both wilder and more innocent, when gay sex was still a risque subject. As in his starry but unsatisfying revival of The Odd Couple two seasons back, Joe Mantello's slick direction is not always employed to best effect in comedy. In his overproduced staging of The Ritz, he plays it broad, fast and loud but reveals no feel for farce, which requires a deft balance of giddiness and precision that also eludes most of his cast. What's more distressing, however, is that Mantello lacks any special insight into the era so affectionately captured by McNally."

Unlike the last, ill-fated revival at another former disco den called Xenon, this revival will move beyond one regular performance. I'll be taking in the show shortly and providing my SOB Review soon after.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Vulture Scoops Up Kevin Chamberlin (October 11, 2007)
Tonight: Puttin' On The Ritz (October 11, 2007)
Before The Holidays Strike? (September 25, 2007)
The Ritz: Studio 54 To Transform Into Baths (May 31, 2007)

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