Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Who Says Recycling Can't Be Fun?

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Who Says Recycling Can't Be Fun?

Article excerpt

Think of "Fish in the Dark" as a special live appearance by the "Larry David" character from "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

In (the real) Larry David's new comedy, which opened Thursday at the Cort Theatre, he plays Norman Drexel, a manufacturer of urinals.

But the petty, obsessive, socially challenged figure we see onstage is indistinguishable from David's alter ego on his brilliantly funny HBO series. Norman even uses the TV character's signature catchphrase -- to the delight, the other night, of a fan- filled audience.

So the play is a kind of transfer without transformation. The character is, however, such a sturdy comic figure, and David's take on him - as both writer and performer - so authoritative that, despite the show's recycling, it's often extremely funny.

Norman is put upon. His father is dying, and he must deal with a passel of problematic hospital visitors, including crude and grabby aunts and uncles, a daughter who affects a British accent and a hot female notary who sexually arouses his mortally ill parent.

He has other difficulties as well. He agonizes over whether he needs to tip the doctor. And he's shamed, after his father passes, when a 14-year-old niece delivers a better eulogy than he does.

And then there's the big issue: Should Norman -- and his resentful wife (Rita Wilson) -- or his wealthy playboy brother (Ben Shenkman) assume the burden of taking in their entitled widowed mother (Jayne Houdyshell)?

Within minutes after their father's death, the brothers have a fierce argument over which child he was looking at when he uttered his dying wish that one of them care for mom.

David is a first-time playwright, and "Fish" -- the title refers to a dining incident that precipitated a long-running feud -- sort of meanders from loosely connected scene to scene. It doesn't have a lot of narrative energy, although director Anna D. Shapiro keeps things moving efficiently.

The feeling is very different from David's fast-paced, sharply edited 30-minute TV show, with its cleverly intertwined plot threads.

"Fish" is thin, and doesn't concern itself with logic or believability. You can't help but notice, for example -- but don't really care -- that Norman and his mother look about the same age. …

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