La Jolla Playhouse
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“Herringbone is more of an acting feat than a memorable musical yarn,” said Charles McNulty in the Los Angeles Times. This fantastical Depression-era tale, about a boy possessed by the spirit of a vaudeville dancer, turns out to be the perfect vehicle for the “puckishly talented” BD Wong. Best known for his TV and film work, Wong also happens to be a Tony winner and a true song-and-dance man. Here, he’s a one-man show, inhabiting 11 characters. But the most memorable are the young boy, George, and the ghost, who once performed as part of a hoofing duo called “the Chicken and the Frog.”
Wong “proves triumphantly up to the challenge” of playing multiple parts, said Bob Verini in Variety. The actor “effortlessly shape-shifts among his roles, both vocally and in carefully selected poses.” For George’s mother, he employs a characteristic “fluttering hand.” For the ghost, it’s “outstretched arms.” George gets a child-like innocence about the eyes. It’s all pulled off “with a remarkable lack of audience confusion.” Too bad Herringbone as a story doesn’t kindle much “warmth.” Stories of such hauntings tend to work best when possessor and possessed “wrestle for supremacy.” But George, as a character, is an underdeveloped “empty vessel” whose eventual rebellion comes as an unconvincing surprise. See this show for Wong’s wonderful characterizations. Just don’t expect much of an “emotional connection.”
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