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LETTERS TO EDITOR
Taller Than a Dwarf
By Brad Bradley
On the surface, Taller Than a Dwarf seems like a good bet for a Broadway comedy: a struggling but charming couple living in an undersized Manhattan apartment with poor plumbing and colorful neighbors, a strongheaded building superintendent, and frequently visiting parents. The latter element certainly would remind television viewers of sitcoms including the current Everybody Loves Raymond. (I must admit to hating Raymond, especially for its meddling overplayed parents.)
Dwarf, to its credit, has the irrespressibly beguiling Matthew Broderick, and to its detriment, a tired cliche of a script by the often clever Elaine May who here seems unable to remember that her audience is reaching quite deeply into its pocketbooks and needs more, not less, than a television episode. Admittedly a sometime fan of sitcoms, Dwarf, left me considerably less satisfied than my tube favorites. I would even say that I'd be inclined to give Raymond another shot rather than have to sit through Dwarf again. And the ironies of The Simpsons are simply profound by comparison.
The play begins with Broderick and Parker Posey arising from bed, about to begin what will be a terrible day. Each character in the family speaks to the audience to give a self-introduction. This device is cute for a minute, but when the characters continue to talk to the audience nearly as much as to one another, one realizes that the play at hand is flimsy beyond belief. Broderick's Walter Mittyish market research analyst is the only reason to see this play. Would that author May realized that there is no advantage, in a bubbly (even while existential) farce, to put raw language including a few "f""words, into his mouth. I was wondering when the father seated in my row with his teenage son would be returning to the theater. As to the jokes about overuse of weapons by the local police force, they were hardly well-placed.
To be fair, I laughed a number of times, but the show ran out of steam long before the curtain calls. The cast of ten has a number of talented folks who are fun to see, but they mostly look embarrassed to be onstage. Even Tony Walton's distorted apartment building set, while clever, seems to call out for another play, perhaps one written by Ionesco or Sartre.
Ms. May seems desperate to have something to say, and yet doesn't know what it is. Dwarf's press release describes the play as about "an average couple, at the beginning of the millennium, who learn new rules of the American dream." Pardon me, but neither the characters nor the audience learn a thing. And the lame laughs available do not warrant the price of a Broadway ticket. Back to the typewriter, Elaine, this time with a dramaturg or a director who will force you to rewrite before you go into rehearsal.