Good Lord! So many shows on the boards reiterate what women have been saying since a certain song brought up the subject in 1917.
“A Good Man Is Hard to Find.”
If that wasn’t clear enough from BURN THIS – where a sensible woman chooses a (literally) raving maniac as her new mate – three other recent entries continue to prove the point.
In SAFEWORD, Lauren (the wondrous Traci Elaine Lee) is happily married to Micah whom she thinks she knows well. Actually, he spends at least $300 a week, sometimes $600, to become a whipped slave to his Master Xavier.
Complications arise when Xavier and his beau Chris move into the building in which the couple lives and Lauren and Chris become friends. Lauren hosts a dinner where all four get together and Master sees who slave really is.
At least playwright S. Asher Gelman doesn’t go for easy laughs. So many times sado-masochism is mocked so that the audience can feel superior to those “crazy” people on stage. Not here; for what it’s worth, matters are discussed calmly and intelligently.
Gelman does go for some sensationalism, however, by showing us Xavier whipping Micah on two occasions. But wait – wouldn’t Lauren ever notice the welts and scars on his back? This problem is easily solved, especially because Chris tells Lauren what he really wants is humiliation. Well, if humiliation is the goal, why does he pay to get whipped, which is a distinctly different kink?
There are so many ways that Chris could be humiliated without having any telltale marks on him. Xavier could dress him as a little girl. He could have him eat Alpo from a dog’s bowl. He could make him join the cast of SINCERELY, OSCAR.
Kate in ALL MY SONS – excuse me, ARTHUR MILLER’S ALL MY SONS, as the estate would have it – finds out much too late that she married the wrong man. Joe Keller was responsible for selling defective airplane parts to the government, but let his partner take the fall and the jail time.
However, as Miller’s rival for America’s best playwright once wrote, “Sometimes there’s God so quickly.” Was Joe punished by seeing his eldest son Larry die in the war?
Annette Bening is giving an extraordinary performance as a down-to-earth earth mother. Her Kate is absolutely resolute and certain that Larry is still alive and no one had best argue with her. Her need to believe brought me to tears not once, not twice, but on three separate occasions. What a welcome return to Broadway.
Give Bening credit, too, for not demanding a star entrance that would make the audience applaud. The first time we glimpse her, she’s inside the house on the backyard porch looking out the window. So much is going on that applauding would disrupt the important dialogue and mostly fine performances.
Nevertheless, even though theatergoers have already spied Bening through that window, once she enters the backyard, they applaud anyway. In comparison, though, this handclapping pales to what they give Bening at her curtain call.
Meanwhile, Larry’s fiancée Anne has begun a relationship with Chris, the younger Keller brother. The callow, insecure and even nerdy way that Benjamin Walker plays him (and in the way that Jack O’Brien has directed him) is at odds with Miller’s telling us that he’s a veteran. Walker suggests a man who never spent a day in basic training, let alone command a company in a war. Anne is so much more worldly-wise than Chris; she isn’t getting much of a bargain with him.
Worst of all by far is Cat in Halley Feiffer’s THE PAIN OF MY BELLIGERENCE. She’s on a first date with Guy, who continually says incendiary remarks that alarm her. He ameliorates them by adding “I’m kidding, I’m kidding” after each offensive and dangerous quip.
Although this disclaimer happens so many times, Cat just giggles her way through them, just so she can come across as A Good Sport. That she doesn’t get out of there faster than you can say any one-syllable word is madness and we lose quite a bit of respect for her.
Then we lose ALL respect for her for continuing the relationship. The way that Hamish Linklater (expertly) plays Guy, you soon stop seeing him in Paloma Young’s costumes but envisioning him in an orange jumpsuit and silver handcuffs.
While we’re at it, let’s add HILLARY AND CLINTON to the mix. Need I tell you why she made a mistake in choosing her man?