a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Hilarious’

Better Watch “Better Call Saul”! It’s So Great, It’s Bad! As in “Breaking Bad”!

Saul 1“Better Call Saul” has done the seemingly impossible. It’s just as good as its’ fabled predecessor “Breaking Bad,” and who knows? As it goes along its’ merry way, it could get better, and even better. For those of you out there who have been missing “Breaking Bad” on some kind of level of bereavement ( I know, because I have), “Better Call Saul” as unlikely as it first sounded, really does more than fill the bill.

It’s a prequel, of all things, six years back in time, and the most unlikeliest of central characters, Saul Goodman, the loudly dressed, strip-mall  lawyer, who winds up defending Walter White(Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman(Aaron Paul)played masterfully here by series regular Bob Odenkirk.

Odenkirk, a former stand-up comedian, here proves himself to be ridiculously adept as a three-demensional dramatic actor, giving us an Everyman, who reminded me of Willy Loman of “Death of a Salesman”, of all characters. He has a potato-like face that’s sometimes mashed and sometimes fried.

True, Walter White started out as wildly relatable, too. The meek chemistry professor who was dying of cancer and who kept getting the s__t kicked out of him on a daily basis, with part-time jobs he had to take because his teaching job just didn’t make him enough money to support his family. And he had a disabled teenaged son with cerebral palsy, and a new baby on the way.

So he began to think of other ways of making money…like, well, using his chemistry skills to make Crystal Meth at the behest of his wayward student Jesse Pinkman. And a Myth of Television, one of its’ greatest shows ever, was born.

We, as an audience, know where “Better Call Saul” is going. We are going to follow, this now incredibly sympathetic character of Saul, as he becomes a criminal.

But we have six years to delight in his descent. We know that’s coming. And we know where he ends up. He didn’t die at the end of “Breaking Bad” but ran off into the sunset prophesying that he’d “end up as a manager of a Cinnabon in a mall in Omaha” which is precisely where “Better Call Saul” starts.In Black and White!

So in grainy chirascuro, we see the now nearly unrecognizable Saul with a Deputy Dawg moustache, and ten-to-twenty-pounds heavier, laying on the cinnamon and sugar creme in a soul-less Cinnabon, a repetitive, drab, living hell. Product placement anyone? You’ll never be able to eat or look at a Cinnabon again without thinking of Saul’s fate worse than fat.

He then goes home to his drab, single dwelling to watch a VHS tape that he has hidden on his sink in a shoe-box, as the snow begins to fall on Nebraksa,and the winter wind is howling, and we see him enjoying, or trying to, TV commercial advertisements of his days in colorful, bygone Albuquerque. These commericals are only heard, but not shown, as the reaction on Saul’s mashed potato face says it all.

And yes, boom! We are now back in Saul’s Oz, and everything shifts into color and we see the still-worn down Saul, back when he was even a different person, Jimmy McGill. And oh what a delight it is to be back in Albuquerque, N.M.! I felt like I was coming home! I couldn’t believe how much I missed it!

Never has the plight of a Legal Aid Defense Lawyer, been painted, or even observed (EVAH?) in such heart-wrenching, soul-squashing clarity. Nothing seems to ever go right for Saul, or rather Jimmy. And as fate deals him, blow after humiliating blow, we are with him every step of the way on his road to lawyerly hell.

And also, because Odenkirk, is a superb comic actor, “Better Call Saul” is much funnier than the bleak “Breaking Bad.” So it’s humor quotient, as well, as the dramatic, is sky-high. God is In the Details. Like the fact, that Saul/Jimmy’s pathetic law “Office” is in the back room of a Korean nail parlor.(see above picture ^)

To reveal anymore, would be to spoil, and I don’t do that. I’ve said too much already. “Better Call Saul” is a Must Watch TV event. It’s third episode is coming next week, so DON’T MISS IT!

“Ruddigore” Delights w/star turns of David Macaluso & Caitlin Burke

Ruddigore

I’ve really becoming enamoured of the enterprising New York Gilbert & Sullivan players. Esp. when they delight by bringing back (from the dead in this case, literally) one of the more obscure operettas like “Ruddigore.” This was scheduled as a special Hallowe’en Trick or Treat, and it was!

In this case I was only scared that the sets would fall down again. Like they did so charmingly when I caught their also-little-seen gem “Patience” last winter. But there was no fear of gaffes like that in their new home at NYU’s sparkling Skirball Center.

They only do three performances each so you have to catch them quick. And I do. And you’ll never see these lesser known works of the G&S canon anywhere but with the NYGasp as they like to abbreviate themselves. I think they can be found at NYGasp.com on the Internet. They also regularly do their ever-popular classics, “The Mikado”,”H.M.S.Pinafore”& “Pirates of Penzance” which alternate with the “Patience”s and the “Ruddigore”s.I love it!

The Skirball Center has a wide stage and a deep pit for the orchestra, and the seats were comfortable too! I hope they stay there for awhile. And it’s their 40th season! Imagine that!

And do they make those old ghostly ditties of “Ruddigore” dance! The plot is too complicated and silly to even reiterate here. But I have to say, the book by my idol William Schrenk Gilbert actually had me laughing up a storm in Act One! When do you encounter a BOOK, 19th century BOOK of a musical, that’s actually that witty. And well delivered by the excellent David Macaluso, who is as adept with slinging one-liners and physical comedy as he is with singing the vocally demanding, tongue-twisting score. He strikes 19th century acting poses with the command of a Booth.

I was also delighted to see their buxom Brunnilde, Caitlin Burke return in the low comedy part of Mad Margaret. There’s also a Mad Margaret in Shakespeare’s “Richard III” but she’s almost always cut out of it. Olivier didn’t have Mad Margaret in his famous film, and neither did Mark Rylance in his recent “Richard III” on Bway. But you can’t cut THIS Mad Margaret out of “Ruddigore”. She’s the whole bloody show!

Ms. Burke blew me out of the water last year in a fat suit with a cello in last season’s “Patience”. Here she’s chewing up the scenery literally as a woman driven mad (and homeless) by love.as she wails “Cheerily Carols the Lark,” a recitative that is also an aria. Long may she wail!

And in the Second Act, Macaluso and she are teamed(pictured above) for a rather unbelievably peppy rendition of “My Eyes Are Fully Opened”, a trio( veteran Richard Alan Holmes joins them) as their patter song gets faster and faster and faster until they can no longer speak the copious, tricky lines.And are basically spouting gibberish. Hilarious! Gilbert is saying here that even his own lyrics are nonsense! And in this case, he’s right!

And the comic punch line in this dizzying fandango is the word “Basingstoke”. Which I was told was Gilbert’s sly dig at the residence of D’Oyly Carte(G&S legendary manager/maestro)’s mistress.

Basingstoke was always seemed one of those accidentally comical-sounding British locations, like Chipping Sudbury. But it was never funnier than it was last night at “Ruddigore.” Hats off to the hysteria that Macaluso and Burke create!And to their resounding back-up troup of Bucks, Blades,Ancesters, Professional Bridesmaids and Villagers. I’m still giggling.

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Carson Elrod & Dave Quay Explode like Supernovas in Hilarious “Heir Apparent”!

What an uproarious delight is awaiting theater-goers at the CSC on E.13th Street! You must see two young, incredibly talented and gifted actors become stars in David Yves uproarious new comedy “Heir Apparent”. Carson Elrod explodes and Dave Quay shines in one of the most expertly executed comic duets since Laurel and Hardy had us in stitches! This kind of delight and excitement is so, so rare in theater or in film, or anywhere. It’s a unique and festive romp that will leave you rolling,if not dancing, in the aisles! Send in the clowns! Don’t bother, they’re here! At the CSC!

Carson Elrod, remember that name! You are going to be hearing it a lot this season, is a veteran, and quirky, comic actor whose work I have been following ever since he graduated from NYU’s prestigious Grad Acting program a few years back. His is a unique talent that has finally gotten the role of his career in “Heir Apparent”, as Crispin, the wily servant straight out of Commedia dell’Arte via the inventive playwright David Ives’ wildy comic take on a centuries old French farce by Jean-Francois Regnard”Le Legataire Universel”(1708).

If all of this sounds a little stuffy and pretentious, “The Heir Apparent” is none of that. It’s simply the funniest show in New York! And Carson Elrod’s comic genius of timing and impersonations is finally allowed to explode like the Supernova he’s going to be.

Director John Rando (“Urinetown”) has given Carson Elrod his comic head and unleashed the stupendously funny volcano inside. Elrod explodes and explodes, topping himself in scene after scene, where he, the wiliest of servile servants, is called upon to assume one outrageous disguise after another, trying to bilk the dying Miser character of Geronte (the always perfect Paxton Whitehead), out of his considerable fortune.

He is matched beat for beat by the stunning Dave Quay(pictured above^), who only JUST graduated NYU’s grad acting program this past June, and who here makes an incredibly impressive New York debut in what perhaps is the more difficult role of Eraste, the ardent young lover, who is Crispin/Elrod’s master, and the Heir Apparent of the title role.

Quay has to play straight man to Elrod’s wackness-to-the-max-ness and it’s a comic duet by two young actors the likes of which I’ve never seen in all my play-going life!

Quay has to be touching, ardent, relatable, impetuous romantic and sexy, too, and he manages to do all that and not miss a comic trick, complementing and completing Elrod’s tour-de-force, Quay does this without missing a beat, or a laugh.

Elrod’s character describes himself at one point as a “one man Comedie Francaise”.

I’d say it was two!

Playing the straight, leading man to Elrod’s whirling dervish is no easy task for an actor. But Quay’s meets the challenges and surpasses expectations ~ for handsome love interests are not USUALLY this funny. But he is!

You have to CARE about Dave Quay’s blond, blue-eyed, sincere heir with the Rock-Star hair, and you do. You have to want him to inherit the earth and the considerable fortune that is at stake here.

“The Heir Apparent”is like discovering a new play by Moliere! Yes! It’s THAT funny!

The fact that both Elrod and Quay trained in clown work at NYU makes them a perfectly matched pair of comical technical wonders. They can handle the slam-bam-thank-you-ma’am physical comedy as well as Ives’ scintillating wit.

And did I mention the play is entirely in RHYME!?! What a joy! To hear language this highfalutin (and hilarious) handled with such magical mastery by Elrod, Quay, and past British masters Paxton Whitehead and Suzanne Bertish who set an expert pace here.

If Carson Elrod is a volcano, Dave Quay is simply a star, and does what stars do. He just shines, shines, shines!

And I can’t forget to mention the gigantic comic performance of the world’s tiniest lawyer Scruple, played on his knees, with tiny little pads for feet by the redoubtable David Pittu. He doesn’t make his entrance til Act Two but you’re going to never stop laughing at the world’s littlest lawyer with a wig(by Paul Huntley) that is bigger than he is!Pittu is the comic cherry on top of this delicious French pastry of a play!

Don’t miss “The Heir Apparent” before it moves to Broadway! Or somewhere more expensive, like David Yves’ last hit “Venus in Furs” did which made another NYU Alum Nina Arianda famous. (WHAT magical elixir do they have in the water down there?!?)

I think “The Heir Apparent” will do the same for Carson Elrod and Dave Quay! Don’t MISS iT at the CSC, a theater that is barely large enough to contain the laughter!

They throw gold coins at the audience at the end, and I’ll treasure mine for ever and ever, like you will the golden, mirthful memories “The Heir Apparent” will leave you with. You’ll exit happy!

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Teen Stars Saoirse Ronan & Tony Revolori Rock “The Grand Budapest Hotel” with laughs!

Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan is all grown up now in the hilarious heist romp “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and she is joined in merriment with Tony Revolori who aces the leading role of “Lobby Boy” Zero! Enjoy!

Editing ~ Paolo Pellegrino

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Ralph Fiennes is Smashing in the new “Grand Budapest Hotel”!

The great Ralph Fiennes is in magnificent form as the sly conceierge at “The Grand Budapest Hotel” which is a comic delight and my favorite Wes Anderson film to date. Ralph just shines, shines, shines in it as Monsieur Gustav, who has got be be one of his greatest roles to date, certainly in an out-and-out comedy! He’s delightful! And so is the whole marvelously baroque movie around him!

Editing by Paolo Pellegrino

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