You can see “300” at 3,000 theaters, but this weekend past I saw three live shows in as many places, and will remember them, I promise you, long after the poetic high points of “Wild Hogs” have been forgotten.
Friday: You go to what was once General Macarthur’s flat on East 50th Street — it’s on the 37th floor of the Waldorf Towers — and there, for the past years, on Friday nights only, at 7 and 9, Steve Cohen does his chamber magic act. (Chambermagic.com)
Fifty people per show are lucky enough to gain admittance.
He is as brilliant a magician as you will ever see. And you sit there in this enormous room while this amazing young man makes you want so much to believe in the possibility of magic.
Saturday: A Broadway musical about to open. “Curtains,” by name, music by John Kander, my oldest friend, and starring the wonderful David Hyde Pierce as a Boston detective who happens to be insanely stagestruck.
“Curtains” opens, natch, with curtain calls. Various singers and dancers take bows, all adroitly, except the female star, who keeps screwing up. She gets everything wrong and, as we watch, she collapses.
Soon to be dead.
Everybody hates her, someone killed her. That’s what the insanely funny evening is about, and at intermission what you hear is the audience buzzing to friends and neighbors about this: “Whodunit?” (You will be thrilled to know I was wrong. As was the young lady sitting next to me. As was her date for the night. We were all wrong, but that didn’t stop us from prattling on.)
The other great question of the evening was this: What will critics say opening night? And you never know. One worry is that there is a character in the show who is a humorless failure and who happens to be a theater critic. Since theater critics are humorless failures, how will they deal with seeing one of their own being treated honestly?
Sunday: “Journey’s End.” Terrific reviews and you know what? This brilliant revival of the 1928 R.C. Sherriff play, staged by David Grindley, is as moving as anything you’re going to see for a very long time.
What I will come away with from the weekend was the sound, the audience’s reaction.
At Chambermagic: bursts of amazement and joy.
At “Curtains”: show-stopping applause and wild laughter.
At “Journey’s End”: silence. Unrelenting silence brought on by the sadness of watching young soldiers die.
Movies we love — they are a part of all our lives. But when the theater works, when live theater works, it is better than anything…