Patti LuPone and Michael Urie star in "Shows for Days," a new play by Douglas Carter Beane. NY1’s Roma Torre filed the following review.
Seeing "Shows For Days" begs the question: Is it possible for a play to be too funny for its own good? I am a big fan of Douglas Carter Beane, but what seems to be intended as a semi-autobiographical memory play about his earliest days in the theatre turns out to be an expertly performed laugh riot. Nothing wrong with that except the jokes have hijacked the story.
Patti LuPone, an actress of seemingly limitless talent, is having a blast here as Irene - the steamrolling artistic director of a struggling community theatre in Reading, Pennsylvania. It's all somewhat loosely based on Beane’s initiation into the theatre as an impressionable 14 year old in 1973 who wandered into his local theatre group one day and never looked back.
Michael Urie, so deliciously endearing in “Buyer and Cellar,” is wonderful here as Beane’s alter ego named "Car,” a budding writer. The rest of the cast consists of a trio of clichéd actor types and a wisecracking lesbian stage manager. The excellent Dale Soules elevates the part beyond stereotype.
This was clearly a momentous period for Beane and he displays a real fondness for his impassioned characters, but there is a disconnect in the writing. Act I jumps from punchline to punchline with little room for narrative development. Act II turns more serious delving into the financial and political challenges of running an amateur theatre, and there are the odd romantic entanglements. One coupling in particular borders uncomfortably on the statutory.
Veteran director Jerry Zaks aces the comedic scenes but is less successful with the dramatic elements. Still, it is all worth it for LuPone alone - zinging one-liners effortlessly the way the rest of us breathe.
In the play, Car’s writing is criticized for being too reliant on humor at the expense of real emotion. Despite Beane’s best efforts, the criticism remains a valid one.