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stage dive

Stage Dive: Which Shows Are Worth a Critical Encore?

Because I like to stay busy (lest the killing spree start up again), I'm assigning myself a few little extracurricular errands in 2011. The one I'm most excited about: A running feature where I revisit shows I've already seen (and critiqued) on press nights a month or two into their runs. Anyone halfway familiar with theatergoing and theatermaking knows that productions don't stop evolving on opening night. Theatrical productions are living things, with distinct life stages, mid-run crises, Indian Summers, etc. Some get loose and lazy as they age, padding out their running times with actor business and moment milking; others crank up the tempo night after night. And then there are those shows — hardly a minority — that gain a special richness and complexity over time, which the press performances only hinted at. Actors relax into their roles, technical cues are internalized, blocking becomes muscle memory.

I'll never forget seeing Joe Mantello's Glengarry Glen Ross again, five months after I'd reviewed it (positively, but not rapturously). It was an entirely different show: Gordon Clapp's powerful Moss had gotten hungrier, less blustery, and had really come to the fore; Jeffrey Tambor's Aronow had become as naturally, indelibly sad as a carpet stain; Liev Schreiber's always-brilliant Roma had come down twenty notches, without losing any torque. The ecology of the whole show was different.

And so, while I attend to my regular duties (i.e., writing "Stan Lee in China" erotic fan fiction and awaiting the coming of the Hornsbical), I'll be periodically ducking back into already-reviewed shows — not for a second bite at the apple, but simply to appreciate the unique organic processes of live theater. I've got a short list, but I'd love to hear your thoughts, as well: What should I see again — not "re-review," mind you, but see again/anew? And which shows, in your opinion, have aged like fine wines? Which have reminded you more of old salad dressing?

Photo: Carol Rosegg