Ryan Serhant is the Million Dollar Listing New York star who’s a bit of a shmegegge, but he’s so slick about it that some people are all too thrilled to plunk their down payments before him like gift bags. At a party for the Bravo show’s third season at the midtown NYC restaurant Lavo, the lanky Serhant told me it’s only natural that he’s in real estate because he’s always loved moving from place to place. And on the road to reality TV, he was, of course, a soap opera character who was killed off—talk about moving to another place—and before that, a hand model for AT&T. (“Did you really blog, ‘If you’re in that line of work, don’t tell your mom it’s a hand job’?” I asked Ryan at the bash. “Yes, I did say that,” he replied, smiling a bit sheepishly.)
And should we give a hand to Listing’s new season? “I’ve only seen the first episode,” Ryan told me, “and I come off like an asshole, but one you could learn to like, and one who matures a bit.” Not so orifice-ishly, he then got onstage to tell the crowd that he credits two dads with his mentoring: his “dad-dad” (i.e., birth father) and “Bob dad” (his mom’s subsequent husband). The latter was the only one on earth bold enough to tell him to do the reality show. “Are you an idiot?” was his exact quote at the time. “Do whatever it takes, and work your ass off.”
As for dad-dad’s best advice, it was when he urged school-age Ryan to play lots of lacrosse, bizarrely enough. “I wanted to do plays and musicals,” Ryan revealed, casually. “Dad said, ‘No, you have to play a sport. You’re a man, and you’re tall’.” With big hands, yet.
Four years later, Ryan finally scored a goal, and dad-dad swelled with pride, knowing his kid had applied himself with a heartening dedication. But wait a million-dollar New York minute. An ex-model/actor who longed to do musicals, was raised by two dads, and has an ongoing rivalry with an ex-gay porn star? The real shocker of the new season is that he has a girlfriend, lol.
Denzel Washington & Sophie Okonedo in 'A Raisin in the Sun' | Photo by Brigitte Lacombe
PENCIL IN DENZEL
I won’t even trivialize Lorraine Hansberry’s 1964 classic A Raisin in the Sun by making any labored segues about real estate right now. It’s enough of a mood change for me to simply state that the new Broadway revival of the play—about an African-American Chicago family at odds with each other during a chance for prosperity—is powerful stuff that still bristles like a raw nerve. Kenny Leon directed the play’s expert retread a decade ago, and he scores again, this time going for grittier, tougher performances filled with more rage, though the characters’ warmth and humor also emerge as the identity crises resolve themselves and the potted plant inches upwards. Denzel Washington consciously plays way younger—in fact, he plays Walter Lee Younger—which actually turns out to work because he interprets the role as an eternal adolescent who simply needs the chance to prove his own heroism to finally grow up. He’s joined by three top-notch women (LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Sophie Okonedo, and Anika Noni Rose), who lend various shades of pain, pride, and passion. Jackson’s wrenching reaction when Walter blows some hard-earned money is strong enough in itself to merit your hard-earned money.
A new play about unexpected neighbors, Will Eno’s The Realistic Joneses, is sort of Beckett by way of Albee, but extremely Eno and as original as a heterosexual real estate agent. A country-living husband and wife (Tracy Letts and Toni Collette) who’ve fallen into a pattern of hurt feelings meet the new couple down the road (Michael C. Hall and Marisa Tomei), who are also named Jones and who seem armed with a similar need to both wound and protect. The quartet’s dialogue is peppered with a lot of self-consciously banal small talk followed by facetious commentary about how banal it is, interspersed with an occasional lightbulb over the head. (Tomei’s free-spirited ditz interestingly reveals that her dad once told her that she didn’t have to tell the truth, but she should never lie.) The characters keep saying awkward things, then reversing them, but when the flirting episodes, health problems, and damaged emotions start simmering, the talk digs deeper into a riff on the terror of aloneness and the way comfort with one’s own physicality can ease the unease of a relationship. The actors are tops under Sam Gold’s direction, but trying to explain this play is making me sound as inarticulate as the Joneses in their most hellacious moments. And that’s a good review.
Always articulate—except for that “To be or not to be?” speech, lol—the bard was the subject of the Drama Desk’s stimulating panel “Why Shakespeare? Why Now?” at Sardi’s last week, where many people raised their large hands to ask questions. The most prevalent answers seemed to be that Will’s work has remained not only rich and textured, but it’s sometimes as familiar as a Baby Boomer’s favorite hit records. While a panel of experts discussed this, we learned that when Julie Taymor had a giant bed sheet morph into various settings in her A Midsummer’s Night Dream production last year, “There were no computers moving things up and down,” as the ex-Spider-Man diva herself said with a smile. “It was much, much faster.” And safer too!
Fellow panelist John Glover (a Tony winner for Love! Valour! Compassion!) talked about playing a witch in the recent Macbeth at Lincoln Center, for which he had completely other things lifting up and down. Glover said he’d been thinking about how hermaphrodites used to be treasured by society, so he brazenly requested a pair of breasts for his portrayal and ended up getting them. That led to director Jack O’Brien’s immortal line to him: “So, you’re gonna have tits?”
But back to balls. Anyone who thinks Rocky The Musical is a drag show because it features gloves and a big ring needs to go out more. Still, Broadway gloss takes the musical away from potentially drab earnestness, and the result has landed it some OK (if not exactly KO) reviews. It’s sort of a "Million Dollar Fisting." The Oscar-winning 1976 film the show is based on was a scruffily intimate story about the personal triumph of a small-time guy who becomes a full-throttle boxing hero. Well, now it has lavish sets, belty songs, flashing lights, and even louder punches. Director Alex Timbers (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and Peter and the Starcatcher) suddenly has a budget to work with, so the avant garde goes out the window and a hyper-slick but still inventive sheen takes over. Christopher Barreca’s sets—from his astounding meat locker to that climactic boxing ring—make for an eye-walloping experience, and the songs by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens lend character, despite a few clunkers. Andy Karl gives a committed performance as the guy who feels “Raw beef don’t punch back,” abetted by the power-voiced Margo Seibert as “Yo, Adrian.” And you even get to hear “Eye of the Tiger” and “Gonna Fly Now.” But put it all together and it feels like a glossy version of the movie, with songs stuck in. In the sequel, at least, there will presumably be a dazzling “Yo-Yo” number.
Not a one-person show at all, After Midnight is a well crafted Cotton Club-style revue with Duke Ellington music and a celebrity guest star. The first such drop-in, Fantasia Barrino, did extremely well, and then came a wholly different but also strong k.d. lang, followed by Toni Braxton and "Babyface", and currently Vanessa Williams, with Fantasia returning soon. That's virtually everybody but Patti LaBelle. Well, guess who I hear is coming down the turnpike with a new attitude? Patti LaBelle! The original Lady Marmalade saw the show and will apparently soon be in it, and I shall be there too. I could listen to her hair alone for hours.
THE HOTTEST NONEXISTENT TICKETS IN TOWN
Some shows that could happen include the following hypothetical one-person delights, a wish list of two-drink-minimum attractions that at the very least are guaranteed to have terrific titles. Why? Because I’ve dreamed up some terrific titles for them. (Lots of free time, folks.) Whether the shows end up being mounted is actually moot, since what follows is a whimsical brochure of possibility that provides a riotous good time regardless of followthrough. I hope. Enjoy.
- Sutton Foster: Sutton’s Gotta Give
- Norbert Leo Butz: This Butz Is Made For Dancin’
- Alan Cumming! You Going?
- This Girl Is On Fierstein
- Maybe I’m A Mays: Jefferson Mays’ latest effort at playing multiple roles
- Barbara Cook: I Can Sing Too
- An Anika Noni Is An Anika Noni Is An Anika Noni: Ms. Rose Salutes Gertie Stein
- Good Old Reliable Nathan
- The Best of Tynes is Now
- Feldshuh? I Just Met Ya!
- Ellen’s Burstyn Out All Over
- The Nina, The Pinter, and the Pint of Sangria (Tony winner Nina Arianda does Betrayal, with dinner. Dessert is served first, of course.)
- If I Were A Rickman: Alan Sings Fiddler
- 50 Shades of Joel Grey
- Who’s Gad?