BOTTOM LINE: One Coen brother behind the curtain is a lot like two Coen brothers behind the camera. Glorious!
Almost an Evening is written by Oscar-winning filmmaker Ethan Coen, who normally writes and directs alongside his brother, Joel, but this is a solo writing venture and also Ethan’s off-Broadway debut. And it rocks. The Coen brothers’ films are known for eccentric characters, dry humor, and an undertone of intellectual merit. If you haven’t already seen No Country for Old Men (2007’s Best Picture winner), Raising Arizona (1987), The Big Lebowski (1998), Fargo (1996), or O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), well, what are you waiting for?
This production is actually three short one-acts that aren’t related in subject matter but are certainly similar in tone and humor. The cast includes nine actors who play multiple parts throughout the show. The cool thing about Almost an Evening is that it brilliantly walks the line between poignant and funny; it’s not a passive theatre experience, but it’s also not a chore to follow along. Ethan doesn’t try to put anything past you, but it is intended for a more “with it” audience (read: not the geriatric crowd).
Almost an Evening brilliantly incorporates that great Coen mindfuck. You know what I mean â€” in a Coen brothers movie, it might be “Gee, how gruesome can this scene get before the audience vomits all over themselves?” or “Let’s convince the audience that something is true and then pull the rug out from under them at precisely the right moment.” Well, in this play, it’s more like Ethan is saying, “Hmm, I wonder if I can still tell this story if I keep it pitch black for five minutes.”
Almost an Evening premiered at Atlantic Theater Company in a sold-out run earlier this year; it’s now playing a limited off-Broadway engagement until June 1. It’s no surprise it was picked up for a longer run â€” the cast and crew are an acclaimed team. The cast includes many seasoned actors; they’re the kind of people you recognize but then have to look up on IMDB when you get home. The most notable cast member is F. Murray Abraham, who plays God like the curmudgeon-y love child of George Carlin and Lewis Black, and the show is directed by the very capable Neil Pepe, the artistic director at Atlantic Theater Company. Check it out while it’s still playing. It’s a good time.
Almost an Evening plays at the Theatres at 45 Bleecker, 45 Bleecker St., between Mott and Lafayette. Tickets are $50 and are available at the box office, at telecharge.com, or by calling 212-239-6200. Student tickets are available at the box office on the day of performance for $20. Visit almostanevening.com for more information.
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