Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Applause! Applause! Review of Here I Sit Brokenhearted: A Bathroom Odyssey at The Samuel Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Here I Sit Brokenhearted: A Bathroom Odyssey at The Samuel Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Here I Sit Brokenhearted: A Bathroom Odyssey
Book & Lyrics by Seth Panitch
Original Music Composed by R. Johnson Hall
Vocal Arrangements/Orchestrations by Raphael Crystal
Directed by Seth Panitch
Choreography by Tara Lynn Steele
The Samuel Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row
410 West 42nd Street
New York, New York 10036
Reviewed 6/26/16 

Here I Sit Brokenhearted: A Bathroom Odyssey was promoted as a musical which "chronicles the scatological odyssey of one man's quest to discover the meaning behind one of the most enduring forms of communal communication known to Man: the prolific, occasionally pious, and perpetually profane verses etched onto the walls of bathroom stalls everywhere." Having read this preview of the show, I was excited and intrigued. Would Seth Panitch, who wrote the book and lyrics, delve into various philosophical and psychological explanations regarding the substance of messages written on the walls of public bathroom stalls? Would he explain how the messages differed in men's rooms vs. women's rooms? Would he write cute musical vignettes about the various uncomfortable experiences men might have in public toilets? Would he provide insight into the euphemisms we have for doing #1 and #2 so we are not reminded of our animal nature? Perhaps he would place this pre-Facebook means of anonymous communication with strangers into historical perspective? In the alternative, he could expose how men have used toilet walls to make appointments to meet other men for secret sexual encounters or to harass former girlfriends by putting their telephone numbers on the wall with the suggestion that they would welcome calls from strangers. The point is I went into the show extremely optimistic regarding its potential for success. 

What I experienced was a 50-minute epic fail featuring 4th-grade humor, cartoon characters, colossal breasts (each carried by one actor), a giant condom, and a walking penis. Then there were ridiculous, meaningless skits where Hillary and Trump danced hip-hop style before giving the audience the finger, an ancient meeting between Moses and Pharoah (The Can Commandments) in an Egyptian toilet, and a totally offensive random bathroom meeting where Hitler complains to Stalin and Churchill about graffiti criticizing him for not yet having killed his first million people. The only good thing worth seeing in the show was the set: four toilets with wooden walls upon which profane verses, philosophical statements, drawings, political messages and other random observations were written. Some that caught my eye were: "She offered her honor. He honored her offer. And all night long. He was on her and off her." and "The only 'b-word' you should call women is beautiful. Bitches love being called beautiful." Other scribblings worthy of post-show discussion were: "Occupy My Crotch", "Got Corn?", "Question Everything", "Don't Drink & Drive. Take Acid & Teleport", "Don't Force It", "Dad, You're Drunk. Go Home!", "The Power of Crap Compels You", "Half The Constipated People In The World Don't Give A Shit", "Tom Brady Is A Power Bottom", and "Your Mother Is So Loose, She Uses The Space Shuttle As A Vibrator." Video clips were projected on a screen at the back of the stage which also enhanced the feeling of being in a public restroom. Some of the images were of urinals and others were used to remind the audience that Kilroy may have been there.

The four main actors, collectively referred to as The Celebrants were Ian Anderson, Matt Lewis, Seth Panitch and Chip Persons. Half of them look twenty years older than they did in their headshots posted outside the theater and in the program. While they all may be fine actors, they had no place being in this production. The phrase "older than dirt" comes to mind and no one wants to see out-of-shape middle-aged men dropping their draws to sit on a crapper. It was absolutely repulsive. Add to that the fact that the costume changes were poorly timed, the skits lame, the songs uninspired, and that there was no point to the story and you get what turned out to be a complete waste of time. In other hands, so much could have been done with this topic but the creative team behind this production didn't have the perspective or talent to make it work. Here I Sit Broken-Hearted is the first part of an often seen piece of graffiti that may have originally read "Here I sit broken-hearted. Paid a dime and only farted." When public toilets became free, the new wording tended to be, " Here I sit broken-hearted. Came to shit but only farted."

This show is not entertaining and may very well be the worst show to open on Theatre Row in a decade. It may also be a career-killer for the actors who agreed to participate in this project. If the book is any indication of the talent and intellect of Sean Panitch, I strongly recommend he give up writing plays. There is one piece of bathroom graffiti not featured in this show. The verse goes as follows: "Some come here to sit and think. Some come here to shit and stink. I come here to scratch my balls, and read the writing on the walls." That is the position you will find yourself in watching Here I Sit Brokenhearted: A Bathroom Odyssey. Nothing much will catch your attention on stage and you will find yourself bored as your attention wanders to reading the writings on the stalls. If you are the kind of person who must place your hand in a fire to confirm it is hot, you can see the show yourself for $18.00 Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. through July 9, 2016 at The Samuel Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row. For reservations, call 212-239-6200 or buy your tickets at 

The only thing that could have made the experience of the audience worse were if Sean Panitch pumped into the theater the smell of urine and excrement for the sake of authenticity. If you are willing to take my advice, I recommend you stay away at all costs even if that means turning down free tickets. You would have a better time visiting the public restroom in Bryant Park.

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