Wednesday, October 29, 2008

No "Doubt" -- new Shanley musical a mess

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) – "This is a train wreck," says a character in John Patrick Shanley's "Romantic Poetry," an astoundingly misjudged attempt at a new musical. And unless the Pulitzer-winning playwright of "Doubt" wants most of Manhattan Theater Club's audience silently nodding their heads in agreement, he would do well to cut the line.

Shanley has brought us several excellent plays and film scripts over the years -- from "Danny and the Deep Blue Sea," that portrayal of raw loneliness circa 1984, to the Oscar-winning "Moonstruck" (1987), to "Doubt," which won the 2005 Pulitzer for drama.

But there really is no kind way to describe "Romantic Poetry." It's off the rails.

It's hard to know what Shanley intended. The glistening red curtain at MTC opens to reveal a set that looks like a cross between Busby Berkeley and one of those resorts that offers heart-shaped jacuzzis. Here, newlyweds Connie (Emily Swallow) and Fred (Ivan Hernandez) careen from kisses to kvetching in the space of three seconds, while an irate caterer named Frankie (Jerry Dixon) and the resort's hostess, Mary (Patina Renea Miller), become amorous behind a scalloped, satiny curtain.

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