June 24, 2009

A Nicely Old-fashioned "Accent on Youth"

There were so many plays opening in the pre-Tony crush at the end of April that I had to do triage. Accent on Youth got left on the trolley. But a couple of weeks ago my husband K and I saw an interview with the show’s smart and articulate star David Hyde Pierce and K was so impressed by the actor that he turned to me and said, “Let’s see his show.” So we got tickets.

Accent on Youth is a revival of a 1934 comedy by Samson Raphaelson, who is most famous for having written The Jazz Singer, which went on to become the first movie talkie. Accent's art-imitates-life plot centers around a successful 50 year-old playwright who falls in love with his twentysomething secretary while writing a play about a middle-aged guy who falls for a much younger woman.

The men wear tuxedos and smoking jackets. The women, thanks to costume designer Jane Greenwood, wear gorgeous evening gowns. Everyone waves around cigarettes, drinks a lot and cracks witticisms. And the whole confection is sprinkled with self-referential showbiz jokes and the kind of meta references that we take for granted today but that were very cutting edge seven decades ago. The show ran for 229 performances back then. Now the revival is scheduled to close on June 28 and won’t even crack 80.

Still, we had a good time. K has a sweet tooth for movies from the ‘30s and this was like watching one of that era's screwball comedies—only in 3-D. And, of course, watching Pierce is always a treat. He seems to have dedicated himself to Broadway since his old sitcom "Frasier" ended five years ago—not just turning in a charming performance in Spamalot and a Tony-winning one in Curtains, but hanging out at Broadway watering holes like Angus McIndoe and Bar Centrale, donating time to all kinds of theater causes, and, according to my blogger pals who track this kind of thing, being a generous autographer of programs for people who wait at the stage door after his performances—and he looks as though he’s having so much fun that it’s almost infectious.

The rest of the Accent on Youth cast—including Mary Catherine Garrison as the secretary, Byron Jennings as a leading man of the day, and Charles Kimbrough as the playwright’s loyal butler—is terrific too. And director Daniel Sullivan does a swell job of keeping things moving along.

All that said, as K and I walked over to Orso for a late supper after the show, we tried to figure out why Manhattan Theatre Club had decided to revive such an old-fashioned show. “I imagine it’s just because Pierce wanted to do it,” K concluded as our vodka gimlets arrived and we picked up our menus. I thought seriously about having something I’d never tried before but in the end, I ordered, as I so often do, the grilled chicken with brussel sprouts. Sometimes, you don’t want an adventure or a challenge, you just want to cozy up with some good comfort food. If you haven’t already done so, and you hurry, you can do that at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre before Accent on Youth ends it run there this weekend.


Esther said...

I'm so glad you and K enjoyed this. One of my biggest regrets for the 2008-2009 theater season is missing David Hyde Pierce in Accent on Youth.

There ended up being so many shows that were so much better-reviewed that I just felt compelled to see. It's so hard to decide when you're not able to get to New York City that often!

As you know, I absolutely loved him (and the rest of the cast) in Curtains and they were all incredibly gracious at the stage door afterward. So I feel especially bad about missing this.

But like you said, DHP does seem like a Broadway regular now, so hopefully he'll be back soon.

jan@broadwayandme said...

Esther, I thought of you while watching the show because I know how fond you are of David Hyde Pierce and have just added a link to your June 29, 2008 blog post about him. Cheers, jan

Aliya said...

Great blog! I really enjoyed reading your posts. Will definitely be back.

jan@broadwayandme said...

Aliya, many thanks for reading, for commenting and for the very kind words. I hope you will return and will comment again when it strikes your fancy. Albest, jan