Sunday, June 27 matinee
by Judith S.
Some months ago I journeyed to New York to see the preview version of Sly Fox and wrote a review which has appeared on this website (see March 20 in the list below). The play was funny; it was a delight to see René Auberjonois in person performing his magic on the stage; it was an enjoyable afternoon in the theatre.
On June 27 I had the opportunity to see the Fox again, expecting to see a more polished version of what I had seen in March. Surprise...! All the folks are the same (except that Bronson Pinchot was replaced that afternoon by Peter Scolari); most of the lines appear to be the same; but this was a whole different ball game. Funnier not just in degree but almost in kind, this was a light-hearted, unselfconscious exercise in hilarity which moved like an out-of-control train from one end to the other.
Gags and theatrical silliness abound from one scene to another. And, as in the first performance I saw, the trio of greedy miscreants--played by René Auberjonois, Bob Dishy, and Peter Scolari (substituting for Bronson Pinchot)--lead the way to comic nirvana with their antics. There is no subtlety (nor should there be) in any of their grimacing, double-takes, double entendres…. They are playing with each other.
The audience was pretty much in stitches from the time the curtain went up until it went down. The end of the first act in particular is so wild and so chaotic and so obviously the crescendo that the whole first act has been leading up to that the audience needs a break from the laughter and the nonsense as much as the actors do.
As for René Auberjonois, he continues to light up the stage when he creaks into view half bent over, wizened and misanthropic as he is. Using his cane alternately as a support, a weapon, or a sex toy and his whole body as a comedic instrument, he elicits side-splitting laughter from the audience with almost everything he does, making it very hard to pay any attention to anyone else on the stage when he is there. I mean, does anyone have any idea of what Miss Fancy is saying as Crouch undergoes his comic romantic interlude with her? Between his antics (which cannot be described but must be viewed) and the hysterics of the audience, she becomes almost a prop.
Bob Dishy is also very funny in his moment of "conscience" (if you could call it that) after he has agreed to pimp his wife to Sly, where he enters into a silent and hilarious pantomine of justification in front of an icon of the Virgin Mary, finally slinking off under her radar screen from the shame of what he is about to do.
There are almost no straight men (or straight women, for that matter) here. An audience can feel when the members of a cast are comfortable with themselves and each other, and that sense of collaboration came across in this performance. Perhaps the ensemble's strength is a result of doing over 100 performances together, and the organic-ness which has grown up within the cast. They don't miss a beat and the guffaws just keep on coming.
Oh, and one more thing: if you are looking for moral judgments or heavy messages, read the newspapers and watch CNN. Here, you will find a triumph of silliness over synchophants, laughter over self-righteousness--something to take your mind off of the daily tragedies and horrors which abound on 24-hour news channels and in the papers. The message here: everybody lighten up...at least for two-and-a-half hours. The real world and all of its problems will still be there when you leave the theatre, but your heart will be lightened and your spirit buoyed. And what a great thing for an ensemble of actors to do for you on an afternoon in New York City.
Audience Reviews and Other Links
Opening Night and Professional Critics
The reviews written by professional critics could best be described as "mixed." Several critics liked the overall fun of the show, but others considered the humor too low-brow or "forced." Some liked Dreyfuss, others preferred the actors who originally did the role in the 70s (George C. Scott and Robert Preston).
Most of them seemed to appreciate René, though!
- New York Daily News:
"It's wonderful to have an old-fashioned comedy back on Broadway.... René Auberjonois is masterly as one of the deservedly fleeced." (originally posted at www.nydailynews.com)
- New York Post:
".....Auberjonois, so brilliantly aged he seems in danger of cracking in two." (originally posted at www.nypost.com)
- New York Times
"The dialogue still gleams with wicked delight and logical absurdity.... What's crucially missing is the anarchic energy that would carry all the dialogue..."
- New York Newsday:
".....a lavishly staged, naughty goof of a vaudeville, perhaps hilarious to those who love oversized humor, and no longer so annoying to those who do not." (originally posted at www.nynewsday.com)
- Associated Press:
"....a trio of expert comedians: Bronson Pinchot, Bob Dishy and René Auberjonois....
Auberjonois creaks in hilarious decrepitude." (Originally posted at www.miamiherald.com)
- Financal Times, London
"One of the pleasures of true ensemble acting is the way supporting players can buoy a production.... René Auberjonois, as stooped schemer Mr Crouch, gives unscrupulousness a
- Hollywood Reporter:
"Featuring a cast stuffed with enough pros to fully staff a faculty at a
comedy university...." (Originally posted at www.reuters.com)
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