Domesticated, Nothing to Hide, La Soiree and Little Miss Sunshine

Domesticated needs tightening, Soiree needs editing, and Sunshine needs polishing, but Nothing to Hide is perfection!

Domesticated   (4 stars)
Nothing to Hide   (5 stars)
La Soiree   (2 ½ stars)
Little Miss Sunshine   (3 stars)

More provocative than his overrated Clybourne Park, Bruce Norris has penned a fascinating look at the battle of the sexes in his searing, new marital drama, Domesticated.  Directed with laser precision by Anna D. Shapiro, a Tony-winner for August: Osage County, Domesticated opens with the now-all-too-familiar public confessional by gynecologist-turned-politician Bill with his loyal wife Judy at his side.  As played with volcanic intensity by Jeff Goldblum and Laurie Metcalf, Bill and Judy become a metaphor for a clinical examination of marriage, sexuality and loyalty that’s guaranteed to be as divisive as it is entertaining.  The brilliant Metcalf continues a string of dazzling stage portraits with Domesticated and Goldblum’s cagy performance is a revelation.  Similarly, the supporting cast, led by the invaluable Mary Beth Peil and Robin De Jesus, are terrific in a variety of roles.  Though Norris lets his narrative get away from him and the dialogue tends to morph into monologue, he cleverly weaves a series of scientific lectures about varying mating rituals of male and female species into Domesticated which prove a hilarious comment on Bill and Judy’s plight.

The new sleight of hand piece, Nothing To Hide, hides plenty – all of which is a magical delight.  Starring the smooth talking prestidigitators Derek DelGaudio and Helder Guimaraes, Nothing To Hide will leave you open-mouthed and rubbing your eyes in amazement.  It’s a tiny space in Signature’s new theatre complex, but sit as close as you can to be dazzled by DelGaudio and Guimaraes’ rapid-fire card tricks and jaw-dropping illusions.  Smoothly directed by none other than Neil Patrick Harris, the 70-minute Nothing To Hide is never less than astonishing!

The latest nightlife ‘event’ piece, La Soiree, is a mixed bag of cabaret, burlesque and circus that varies as wildly in its execution as it does in its entertainment value.  To be sure, The English Gents (Denis Lock and Hamish McCann) are ogle-worthy specimens of manhood in their acrobatic ‘adagio’ act, and Stephen ‘Bath Boy’ Williams is worth the price of admission with a chiseled, Adonis-like physique that flies about the stage dripping water and testosterone in equal quantities.  And, quirky as they are, both Mario (the Queen of the Circus who juggles while lip-synching to Freddie Mercury songs) and Ursula Martinez (whose disappearing hanky routine involves her stripping down to her birthday suit and pulling said hanky out of her coochie snorcher!) have their charms.  But acts like comedian Mooky Cornish (whose audience-participation bit goes on way too long), sword-swallower Miss Behave and chanteuse Meow Meow all need serious editing and directing to lessen their dead-weight contributions.

It’s dispiriting to report Little Miss Sunshine, the new musical from Tony-winners William Finn (music and lyrics) and James Lapine (book and direction), can most charitably be described as a ‘missed opportunity.’  Based on the charming, Oscar-winning 2006 film of the same name written by Michael Arndt, the biggest hurdle facing Little Miss Sunshine is that it never needed to be a musical in the first place.  The cast, entirely new since the show’s out-of-town tryout in La Jolla in 2011, is only intermittently successful.  David Rasche is miscast as Grandpa (the role which won Alan Arkin an Oscar), the funny Rory O’Malley works a bit too hard as gay Uncle Frank, and Will Swenson’s singing (which began deteriorating in Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Murder Ballad) is now officially ‘terrible.’  Won’t someone get Swenson (a seriously handsome leading man whose acting is usually terrific) to a vocal coach who can re-teach him how to sing correctly?!  His vocal production is as misguided as Little Miss Sunshine’s intent.  They both mean well, but neither works.

Domesticated plays through January 5 at LCT’s Mitzi Newhouse (150 W 65th St, LCT.org).  Nothing to Hide plays through December 8 at the Signature (480 W 42nd St, NothingToHideNYC.com).  La Soiree plays through March 30 at the Union Square Theatre (100 E 17th St, La-Soiree.com).  Little Miss Sunshine plays through December 15 at 2econd Stage (305 W 43rd St, 2ST.org).

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