13 November 2006

I Didn't Realize "Luncheon" Was Such a Funny Word

God bless John and TDF, and Broadway shows papering for press, and John for some reason taking me with him all the time when all I have to offer in return is sparkling intermission conversation (and we saw how well that worked this time).

I don't think I have ever loved a show's poster as much as the one for The Little Dog Laughed (on Broadway, transferred from that Broadway transferring machine, Second Stage.) Look at it. Okay, this image is a little grainy, but go to the Times Square subway station (or the website) and have a look. That's where I fell in love with it. If you know just the vaguest outline of the premise (up-and-coming movie star [Tom Everett Scott] kept in the closet by his agent [Julie White]), or maybe even if you don't, I think this poster is brilliant - it gives you such a strong sense of the play, of its feel, of the characters. It looks wicked, and funny, and sharp. Just the evil grin on Julie White's face tells you everything you need to know. I'd heard plenty about the play when it was Off-Broadway, but had no desire to see it until I saw this.

The role of artwork & advertising has been coming up at work a lot lately, as we try to pick art for our next show. (Not technically my purview, but anywhere someone'll listen to my opinions...) This poster is the perfect example of how I think show posters should work - I saw the poster, was intrigued, and ended up loving the show. (More on that in a sec.) It's like my theory of headshots (developed over my tenure as an assistant at a talent agency): Let's say someone's casting a role that you'd be perfect for. If they have your headshot, they should be able to look at it and think, hey, this person seems right for this role. (Not: hey, this is a nice picture of this person.) If there's a show that I'd love - matches my sense of humor, my general aesthetic about theatre or whatever - its poster should pique my interest. It's like book covers. (And yes, I totally judge books by their covers. It's the designer's job to make sure that when I do, I'm right.) I know this is impossible to perfect - there are probably people who like the Little Dog Laughed poster but not the show, and vice versa - and it's totally subjective - evoking the feel of the show in the artwork - but it's what you should be trying to do.

(As I segue into talking about the show, I think of this: I've been seriously envying Patrick's ability, on his blog, to be able to review shows in one paragraph. Concise, thoughtful, thorough, economical - much much harder than rambling on endlessly about show posters and headshots. Which isn't to say that his style is anything I'm capable of imitating. I just felt the need to share.)

People have been talking about Julie White's performance much like they're buzzing about Christine Ebersole in Grey Gardens - a brilliant performance amidst an okay show, but totally worth it just to see her do that. I haven't seen Grey Gardens yet, but The Little Dog Laughed is much more than a Julie White vehicle.

That's not to say, of course, that she isn't staggeringly brilliant. She is. She turns completely innocuous phrases into The Funniest Thing You've Ever Heard. She's big, and hammy, but it's all precise and inspired, never sloppy and backed up by, to use a word I hate in this context, craft. It's all even more impressive when you remember (or read in your Playbill at intermission) that this is the woman from Fiction, where she gave a sane, naturalistic, normal-sized performance. As in, this isn't the only thing she can do. (Anyone else see Miss Witherspoon and Based on a Totally True Story too close together? Ahem.)

Although Julie White is, as I said, staggeringly brilliant, she's far from the only good thing about the show. Tom "the drummer from That Thing You Do" Everett Scott is really lovely on stage - very sweet, very... tall. And it's a really great play. John, who saw the second preview Off-Broadway, said he'd never seen a play improve so much. It's sharp. It's funny. It's wicked, and a little cruel. It's not perfect, but it's so much fun that you don't care. And it's not all soulless satire - the relationship at its center has some very sweet, tender moments. All the better to remind you that there's no place for that sort of love in Show Biz.

1 comment:

Rocco said...

Damnit! You totally beat me to the thank-god-this-isn't-Kristine Nielsen-again observation.