Act One Should Have Been One Act

Act oneWent with much anticipation to Lincoln Center’s offering of Act One, based on Moss Hart’s autobiography of the same name. It had a seemingly great pedigree – written and directed by James Lapine, featuring such actors as Tony Shaloub, Andrea Martin and Santino Fontana, and the story itself. Act One tells Hart’s early life’s story, on his journey to becoming a premier playwright and theatrical director.  But for a play that focuses on a fairly short time period, Act One could have told Hart’s entire life, clocking in at almost three hours.

The play belabors many points and Lapine would have benefited by taking the advice given to Hart in the show about reworking something that doesn’t work. Hart is working with George S. Kaufman at this point and there is too long of a plot about them tinkering with their first collaboration. There’s the first out of town tryout, and then the second, and finally the Broadway opening. We got it – get me rewrite. As an audience member I don’t need to be hit over the head to understand a plot line. Another plot point doesn’t ring true. Hart says he hates his father but they seem to enjoy a decent relationship.

The main actors are good but Tony Shaloub playing George S. Kaufman (the actors play numerous roles) brought to mind his portrayal of Monk on the TV show, as Kaufman and Monk both suffered from OCD. And Andrea Martin brought to mind one of her Second City character’s with her distinct laugh when she played a theatrical agent. I think Martin was strongest in her portral of Beatrice Kaufman. Unfortunately a number of the actors speak in a very affected 1930s “accent” which I found very distracting.

I loved the set, designed by Beowulf Boritt. He was able to bring to life a poor immigrant’s home, the upper-class home of the Kaufmans and the bright lights of Broadway in the 1930s.

Lapine should have read the recent NY Times article entitled “Get. Arts. Fast.” which talked about shorter theatrical offerings and taken those words to heart. AFW




Opens on April 17 and runs through June 15

Lincoln Center Theater at the Vivian Beaumont

(LCT’s poster artist James McMullan)

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