January 22, 2010

A (personal) theatrical recommendation

Get excited, because I might get a little personal here…

The other night, I saw a very good play: Smudge by Rachel Axler, currently playing Off Broadway at The Women's Project on West 55th Street (is it me, or is "the Women's Project" an ominous-sounding name? Regardless, the show is very male-audience-member friendly). It's a strange but wholly relatable story about a couple whose newborn baby is more than a little messed up—deformed, but the particulars of it shift and slide, as does the plot itself, resulting in something that occupies a weird territory between realistic and fantastical. It was impressively acted and rather well written—I could see the compositional seams a little more than I would've liked, but it's full of refreshingly original ideas, and the dialogue is simply outstanding.

But the reason I saw this play—showed up at 7:30 and managed to score a $20 rush ticket, which is really the smartest way to do it in this town—was because I'm acquainted with the playwright. Rachel Axler is also a TV writer; she won an Emmy several years ago for The Daily Show and is currently working on Parks and Recreation (which I have yet to see, actually). Ten years ago this summer, we met at a Bryant Park screening of the answer to a question in last Monday's Lighting Round (What 1933 film told the story of the war between Freedonia and Sylvania?). We hit it off and went on a few dates; she's the one who introduced me to the concept of googling, and asked me if I'd ever written a book about scurvy (the answer: no, but that is me). These days we talk a few times a year, and have gotten a drink once or twice.

Despite the brevity of our nascent relationship, I recall that we really hit it off; we had a lot in common. The problem, as I remember it, was that Rachel simply Wasn't That Into Me, on a romantic level; she gave me the "just be friends" line, and I think she meant it (I've heard it enough to be able to tell, trust me). I, on the other hand, was not interested in being friends with someone whose pants I wanted to get into, so that was that.

But now, I find myself feeling regret. I'm not a fame whore, but I am a talent whore, and if I had known how far Rachel Axler would go—The Daily Show is brilliant, Smudge is brilliant, Parks and Recreation might be pretty good—I would've sucked up my wounded-guy pride and perhaps nurtured that friendship. Remember that, fellows.

Smudge plays through February 7; make an effort to go if you're at all a theater person. I thought about trying to swing free tickets to give away at the next quiz, but it won't work schedule-wise. Maybe when it makes it to Broadway.