When you look at the credentials of the author and director of Taller Than A Dwarf, which opened last night at the Longacre Theatre, you cannot help being impressed. A new comedy by Elaine May! Directed by Alan Arkin! Add a cast that includes interminably adorable Matthew Broderick and the always piquant Joyce Van Patten, with a dash of independent film glamour (if glamour is the correct word) courtesy of Parker Posey, and how could Dwarf not be a great show?
Famous last words, those.
Dwarf is more or less the story of a supposedly "average young couple" - Matthew Broderick as the wimpy husband and Parker Posey as the nonentity of a wife - who turn aggressively litigious in the last five minutes, having discovered suing everyone in sight may be their only chance at the "American dream." At least, I think that's the point. It's hard to tell.
Elaine May's play has, I suppose in the name of exposition and character development, so many tangents it's almost impossible to follow. This wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing if only it were funny. Sadly, the laughs are few, far between, and fairly empty. Alan Arkin directs with a heavy hand, keeping the characters moving about the stage in an unsuccessful attempt to make it look like something's happening.
Matthew Broderick plays the husband as an ineffectual victim, without the droll flourishes for which he is famous. Parker Posey remembers all her lines. Even the usually reliable Joyce Van Patten comes across as strident and desperate. The only genuine warmth and honesty on the stage comes from Jerry Adler, here making his Broadway debut as an actor.
Tony Walton's set is not up to his usual standards. The costumes, by Martin Pakledinaz, and the lighting, by Brian Nason, are adequate.
The last time I checked, a new comedy was supposed to let you laugh a lot and leave the theatre feeling upbeat, not depressed and suicidal.
Taller Than A Dwarf a new comedy by Elaine May. Directed by Alan Arkin. Scenic design by Tony Walton. Costumes by Martin Pakladinaz. Lighting design by Brian Nason. Sound design by Andrew Keister. Starring Matthew Broderick and Parker Posey, with Jerry Adler, Cynthia Darlow, Sam Groom, Marcia Jean Kurtz, Micheal McShane Marc John Jefferies, Dajon Matthews, Greg Stuhr, and Joyce Van Patten.
Theatre: Longacre Theatre, 220 West 48th Street (between Broadway and 8th Avenue)
Running time: 95 minutes with no intermission
Audience: May be inappropriate for children 11 and under. Children under 4 are not permitted in the theatre.
Schedule: Tuesday through Saturday at 8 PM, Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM, Sunday at 3 PM
Ticket prices: $65, $55, $35 and $25 (Wednesday Matinee $60, $50, $35 and $25)
Tickets online: Tele-charge
Tickets by phone: Tele-charge at (212) 239-6200, or outside the New York metro area (800) 545-2559, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Tickets by E-Mail: Tickets@telecharge.com
Tickets in person: Box office hours Monday through Saturday 10 AM to 8 PM, Sunday Noon to 6 PM
Tickets by Snail mail: Taller Than a Dwarf, PO Box 998, Times Square Station, New York, NY 10108-0998