I was so happy to finally see Relatively Speaking: 3 One-Act Comedies last night at the Brooks Atkins Theatre, just a few weeks before it is set to close. When I heard the creative talent behind this play, my mouth began to water and I had to see it. The show features one-act comedies by Ethan Coen, Elaine May and Woody Allen. Directed by John Turturro, the cast includes Caroline Aaron, Max Casella, Bill Army, Lisa Emery, Ari Graynor, Steve Guttenberg, Danny Hoch, Julie Kavner, Allen Lewis Rickman, Grant Shaud, Marlo Thomas, Katherine Borowitz, Jason Kravits, Richard Libertini, Mark Linn-Baker and Patricia O’Connell. Seeing all of them on stage made my heart sing and filled me up with memories of my youth. How could it not? Marlo Thomas was on “That Girl” and the creator of my favorite record in the 1970s, “Free to Be You and and Me”; Grant Shaud was in “Murphy Brown” for 8 seasons; Mark Linn-Baker was on “Perfect Strangers”; Julie Kavner was on “Rhoda” and in 7 of my favorite Woody Allen films; Max Casella played Doogie Howser, M.D’s best friend and Steve Guttenberg of “Three Men and a Baby and just about every film made in the 1980s when I was growing up.
But it was the combination of writers that intrigued me and I was curious how their works would unfold and come together. Woody Allen, Elaine May and Ethan Coen are 3 brilliant writers and each is a master of dysfunctional relationships. Each mini play explores a different type of problem that only occur in families. The cast of Talking Cure, in which Ethan Coen “uncovers the sort of insanity that can come only from family”. It’s about an inmate in a mental institution who is trying to uncover his problem by talking to a doctor. The conversation goes on and on and he basically tells the therapist that “your parents f–k you up!” At the end of the act, we learn that his family led to his demise, or so he thinks. As they argue in a flashback from the past, his mom yells at his dad, “Hitler is your answer to every argument!” While definitely interesting, particularly with the focus on Hitler at the end, the following two acts are definitely funnier, and I’m praying that my childhood doesn’t f-k me up. Maybe it hit to close to home.
The cast of George is Dead, in which Elaine May “explores the hilarity of death,” comprises Lisa Emery, Allen Lewis Rickman, Patricia O’Connell, Grant Shaud and Marlo Thomas. Marlo Thomas plays a woman who deals with her husband’s death at the start of the act and wanders into her former nanny’s daughter’s apartment to start the grieving process. She is clearly a woman who has been waiting for her husband to die: “I thought I would miss him. he was so boring!” She starts to talk about her potential new husband and declares herself as “free”, but as the play progresses and chaos ensues between her friend and husband leading to the actual funeral, she begins to grieve. Marlo Thomas is superb in this role. She and May have worked together before, and I am sure that May must have written this role with Thomas in mind.
The cast of Honeymoon Motel, in which Woody Allen “invites you to the sort of wedding day you won’t forget,” features Caroline Aaron, Bill Army, Mark Linn-Baker, Ari Graynor, Steve Guttenberg, Julie Kavner, Jason Kravits, Richard Libertini and Grant Shaud. It’s comedy that is reminiscent of Noel Coward. The act starts out in a tacky motel room with a couple direct from their wedding, clearly in a state of bliss. With a knock on the door, we learn that the “groom” is actually the real groom’s father who stole the young bride. The rest of the play is 30 minutes of chaos and I loved seeing so many wonderful actors on stage. And, of course, Woody Allen never lets me down. His script is full of funny one-liners and jokes that led to one laugh after another.
Meet the stars of the show here:
Visit www.relativelyspeakingbroadway.com for more information on performances and tickets.
Disclosure: I paid for my own tickets to this show.