Even the most avant-garde, experimental, post-gotham-hawthorne and what-have-you folks secretly like Broadway. Every so often they lock the doors, turn off the phone, and put on the Rent soundtrack (eewww), or Chicago, or maybe even Mama Mia, though hopefully not the latter. The problem with Broadway is the mass appeal: as Oscar Wilde said, “everything popular is wrong.” Mass appeal necessitates cheesiness – that is, the overused, clichéd numbers performed with tearful zest. To make it on Broadway, you need to have a certain amount of that mass appeal: it’s like getting a required GRE score.
That said, I loved Sarah Jones’ Bridge and Tunnel. The show is about an NYC poetry reading that brings together a crazy bunch of immigrant poets – Pakistani Mohammad Ali, Chinese Mrs. Ling, Jamaican Gladys, Boris from you know where, Lorraine from the pre-war Poland, etc. You’d think, here’s the perfect ground for cultural generalizations; but the performances are so good that the hints of cheesiness recede into the background. Sarah Jones who plays all of the characters – it’s a one-woman show – had many years of schooling at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and she has certainly seen some of the most random characters who come to the readings (it’s like a chabad house but left-wing and poetry-centered.) And man, she can parody them. Not going to speak confidently of all characterizations, but having attended a few slams I’ll attest that the portrayal is hilariously accurate. Lorraine, the Jewish lady from Long Island, originally Poland-Lithuania, is fantastic. A total bubaleh, as the picture above attests. And Boris is excellent: “What, I don’t have any stories. I was a Jew, in Russia – you want more stories than that?” And then “he” reads something in Russian, I believe from Pushkin, with a really solid pronounciation. I generally can’t stand the feebly low attempts at the portrayal of the (incomprehensible, darkly introspective, comic-cosmic) Russian soul, but this was not bad at all. On the whole, a very inspiring work; and the idea of making slam poetry into a play… what a tempting concept! By the way, after Sarah won the “special award” Tony the show was extended into August.
Cross-posted on Mima’amakim