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Do You Have Anything Closer?

Theatre Review by Matthew Murray

When people think of Broadway, they might think of magical musicals or plays, great actors, singers, or writers, or even some of the best sets, costumes, and lights to be found on the world's stages. Yet, if Lawrence Paone is to be believed, those same people probably don't realize just how important box office personnel are to keeping the machinery of Broadway's theaters well-oiled.

After spending over 15 years sequestered in Broadway box offices, Lawrence Paone is breaking his silence about what he's seen and heard. Do You Have Anything Closer?, which is appearing at the Where Eagles Dare Theatre as part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival, is the result, and while it's very interesting to view professional theatre from his vantage point, the show itself is neither as crazy as you might imagine or as insightful as you might hope.

That's mostly because Paone and his co-author Matthew Aibel (who is also the show's director), have not structured the play in such a way to either smash or reinforce pre-conceptions about box office life. Instead, the show is about one show-business career that - like so many others - started as one thing and ended up as something very different.

Paone originally wanted to write, but started working at theater box offices and Telecharge to make ends meet for his growing family. As that career started taking off, his writing fell by the wayside, leaving him forever questioning whether what he got was worth what he gave up. Repeated attempts at insinuating himself back into writing were unsuccessful, and he slowly began to realize that, even if his career wasn't what he originally envisioned, he was still a part of the magic that is New York theatre, something many people dream about but never achieve.

If Do You Have Anything Closer? is about one thing, it's about Paone's attempts to come to terms with this; many of his stories about box-office life are secondary. While he shares some anecdotes about celebrities like Garry Marshall and Tony Randall, advice on the best ways to purchase tickets, and plenty of musings about some of the bizarre and even insensitive requests he's received from prospective ticket buyers, they're written in what sometimes seems almost too gentle and affectionate a manner. The art gracing the show's poster and program, which features a cartoonish man screaming and clutching the bars of a box office cage as if they were the bars of a prison cell, seems misleading.

Paone's performance also contributes to the show's low-wattage excitement. He's mild-mannered and unassuming in appearance, and over the course of the show reveals that, underneath, he's really rational and level-headed. He's not a colorful or creative enough performer to make that ordinariness seem special, or the generally run-of-the-mill exploits he recounts seem like the stuff of great theatre. He does, however, have a fine speaking voice, and a genuine likeability that makes it easy to forgive his inability to imbue his performance with much spice or sizzle. Aibel's frequently static staging, which tends to close off Paone more than open him up, provides little solid assistance.

If you're involved in the theatre, or merely interested in it, you're likely to feel a special kinship with Paone; his struggles and stories, despite being told from an unusual perspective, stem from his love of theatre and are hardly unique. One just wishes that the stories Paone tells in Do You Have Anything Closer? would not keep sympathetic and curious audiences at such a great distance.

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Midtown International Theatre Festival
Do You Have Anything Closer?
Through August 1
Running Time: 70 minutes with no intermission
Where Eagles Dare Theatre, Ground Floor, 347 West 36th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues
Schedule and Tickets: SmartTix 212.868.4444