My wife and I just got back from New York, where we stayed in a nice little hotel--the Mela--and saw two plays, the revival of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit, starring Rupert Everett and Angela Lansbury, and God of Carnage, which won Tony Awards for Best Play and Best Actress (Marcia Gay Harden.)
I'm not going to write reviews here (I did too much of that working for The Washington Post's Book World). But it's enough to say I liked both enormously.
I'd wanted to see them because of their casts--Lansbury, of course, but also Harden, Jeff Daniels, James Gandolfini, and Hope Davis in God Of Carnage. I wasn't disappointed. The acting in each play is excellent and I felt the way I imagine my son does when I read one of his favorite stories, enchanted and enthralled, willingly suspending my disbelief.
Both plays are laugh-out-loud comedies, though you laugh for different reasons at each one.
In Blithe Spirit, a seance goes haywire, and successful novelist Charles (Everett) finds himself haunted by the ghost of his first wife, Elvira (Christine Ebersole). As good as Everett, Ebersole, and Jayne Atkinson are (Atkinson plays Charles' second, put-upon wife, Ruth), it's Lansbury as the wacky, bicycle-riding medium, Madam Arcati, who steals the show.
Lansbury's 83, but she cavorts around the stage with the energy and enthusiasm of a far younger woman.
A far darker comedy, God of Carnage tells of a couple Alan and Annette (Daniels and Davis) whose son has assaulted the son of Michael and Veronica (Gandolfini and Harden) on the playground, knocking out two of his teeth. What starts as an amicable meeting to discuss the incident quickly turns ugly as the couples trade insults, drink more than they should, and tear the masks off each other and themselves.
It was all great fun. New York Times reviewer Ben Brantley put it best: "Never underestimate the pleasure of watching really good actors behaving badly."