×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Wrong Turn at Lungfish

Garry Marshall and Lowell Ganz's "Wrong Turn at Lungfish" is sitcom trash of such a low order that it seems destined to repeat the surprise, long-run success of the Promenade Theater's recent tenant, "Breaking Legs." Both shows are theater of the TV set, by the TV set and for the TV set.

With:
Peter Ravenswaal - George C. Scott
Nurse - Kelli Williams
Anita Merendino - Jami Gertz
Dominic De Caesar - Tony Danza

Garry Marshall and Lowell Ganz’s “Wrong Turn at Lungfish” is sitcom trash of such a low order that it seems destined to repeat the surprise, long-run success of the Promenade Theater’s recent tenant, “Breaking Legs.” Both shows are theater of the TV set, by the TV set and for the TV set.

“Lungfish” isn’t even an original sitcom, though that phrase is admittedly an oxymoron. The play is set in a hospital room, where Peter Ravenswaal (George C. Scott), an aging ex-dean at Hofstra U., is coping with his newly won blindness by being cranky, mean and condescending to the good people around him, represented in all their multitude by a nurse (Kelli Williams).

Enter Anita Merendino (Jami Gertz), a pretty, slangy illiterate who has unaccountably come to read to him. They bond, she stirring a little porn into the mix of Baudelaire and T.S. Eliot, he prattling on about Beethoven and the nature of the universe.

So here is last season’s “Park Your Car in Harvard Yard,” transplanted a few hundred miles south from New England (that play featured Jason Robards and Judith Ivey lending their good names to lifeless writing in precisely the same vein).

A given in these sitcoms is the relentless and, in this case, unashamed humiliation of both the female character and the actress playing her. Anita must not only suffer Peter’s psychological abuse and pander to his intellectualized lechery, but she tries to seduce him, outfitted in red minidress and spike heels; she fellates her boss for protection and is ultimately revealed as a hustler who suffers grave abuse from boyfriend Dominic (Tony Danza), an extremely low-rent goon.

Although Dominic appears in the second act to take his beloved away, “Lungfish” is about what happens between Peter and Anita, and you may be sure it isn’t much.

Scott played this role with far more grace and humor in last season’s Circle-in-the-Square revival of Paul Osborne’s “On Borrowed Time.” Here, he’s so obviously slumming that there’s no evidence of any effort to make the part real; the physical comedy, especially, lacks spontaneity and danger.

But Gertz has a wonderfully animated mouth, and even when she’s prowling David Jenkins’ pedestrian hospital room set, oddly hunched, she’s head and shoulders above the material, milking the comedy and going easy on the straight lines — in heaven, she says, “Your parents are there and they’re not mad at you anymore.”

Williams is only OK as the nurse. Danza, for his part, plays the same role he’s always played, here with a somewhat more menacing tinge. It’s not what you’d call a stretch, though stretching isn’t what any of this exercise is about.

“Wrong Turn at Lungfish” is a TV show created by and for people with a shared goal: To make a connection with the theater that is no more demanding than the Thursday lineup from 8-10 p.m. that made NBC invincible until last season. As “Breaking Legs” demonstrated, the world is so upside down that there are hordes undoubtedly lining up to pay nearly $ 40 for what they can have any night for free, because they will think they have gone to the theater.

Wrong Turn at Lungfish

Promenade Theater, New York; 399 seats, $39.50 top

Production: A James B. Freydberg, Jeffrey Ash and Kenneth Greenblatt presentation of a play in two acts by Garry Marshall and Lowell Ganz. Directed by Marshall.

Creative: Set, David Jenkins; costumes, Erin Quigley; lighting, Peter Kaczorowski; sound, Tom Morse; casting, Lynn Stalmaster; associate producers, Jean Van Tuyle, Sandra Greenblatt, John Goldman. Opened Feb. 21, 1993; reviewed Feb. 19.

Cast: Peter Ravenswaal - George C. Scott
Nurse - Kelli Williams
Anita Merendino - Jami Gertz
Dominic De Caesar - Tony Danza

More Legit

  • Michael Shannon Audra McDonald

    Michael Shannon, Audra McDonald to Star in Broadway Revival of 'Frankie and Johnny'

    Michael Shannon and Audra McDonald will portray two lovers whose one-night stand turns into something deeper in the Broadway revival of “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune.” The production is being mounted in honor of playwright Terrence McNally’s 80th birthday. Shannon will play a short-order cook and McDonald will portray a waitress, roles [...]

  • Hamilton review London

    ‘Hamilton’ Helps Drive London Theater Attendance, Box Office to Record Levels

    Brits don’t just like going to the movies; they’re heading to the theater in greater numbers than before, too. “Hamilton” and other hits, particularly musicals, helped drive an uptick in box office receipts and attendance in London’s West End and across the U.K. last year, according to figures from the organizations Society of London Theatre [...]

  • Ethan Hawke

    Listen: Ethan Hawke on 'True West' and the Ghost of Philip Seymour Hoffman

    Ethan Hawke had a long relationship with Sam Shepard and his work — but he never thought he’d end up on Broadway in “True West.” That’s because Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly had already put their stamp on the show in the 2000 Broadway revival of the play. “I kind of felt that that [...]

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Kaye Ballard, Star of 'The Mothers-in-Law,' Dies at 93

    Singer-comedienne Kaye Ballard, who starred alongside Eve Arden in the 1960s sitcom “The Mothers-in-Law” and was among the stars of the 1976 feature based on Terrence McNally’s farce “The Ritz,” died Monday in Rancho Mirage, Calif. She was 93. She had recently attended a screening of a documentary about her life, “Kaye Ballard: The Show [...]

  • CAROL CHANNING HERSCHFELD. Actress Carol Channing

    Remembering Carol Channing: A Master of Channeling the Power of Personality

    There was only one Carol Channing, and her outsize personality was a source of delight to many fans — and imitators. Gerard Alessandrini’s stage spoof “Forbidden Broadway” had many incarnations over the years, including the 1994 edition when an audience member was selected every evening to come onstage and impersonate Carol Channing with the cast. [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Viola Davis, Lin-Manuel Miranda Among Celebrities Remembering Carol Channing

    Viola Davis, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Bernadette Peters are among the slew of celebrities taking to Twitter to pay tribute to late singer, comedienne and actress Carol Channing. Known for her starring roles in Broadway’s “Hello Dolly!” and “Gentleman Prefer Blondes,” the legend of the stage and screen died Tuesday at her home in Rancho Mirage, [...]

  • What the Constitution Means to Me

    Listen: How Things Got Scary in 'What the Constitution Means to Me'

    For a decade, writer-performer Heidi Schreck had wanted to write a play inspired by her experiences as a teen debater. But over the years the show started to develop into something both urgently political and deeply personal — and things got scary. In the Broadway-bound “What the Constitution Means to Me,” Schreck reimagines her speech-and-debate [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content