Just Push Play

The House of Blue Leaves Explores Fame & Religion

Posted on: April 22, 2011

I’m not one to usually go see a Broadway play. Hand me tickets to a musical and I’m there, but after seeing The House of Blue Leaves last night you will see me at plays more often! I originally got tickets to this play because of the great cast- Ben Stiller, Edie Falco, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. With the combination of Ben Stiller and my only knowledge of the play being that it was about a struggling musician, I said why not? And I’m so happy I did!

The House of Blue Leaves is set in Queens, NY in October of 1965. Pope Paul VI visits New York in order to talk to the United Nations about bringing peace in Vietnam. The play centers around Artie Shaughnessy (Ben Stiller), who is a zookeeper and an aspiring songwriter, Bananas (Edie Falco), the schizophrenic wife of Artie, and Bunny (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Artie’s girlfriend and seeker of money and fame. Also in the play is Ronnie, the son of Artie and Bananas, who deserts the army and sneaks home with a plan of his own.

The play is a very dark comedy. One second it has you laughing hysterically, and the next second it’s not funny at all with its seriousness and dark nature. This play explores a person’s desire for fame, with Artie trying to become a famous song-writer and his girlfriend trying to push his drive and desire even further. Other characters in the play include a famous movie director, who is childhood friends with Artie, and his girl-friend movie star, who is hearing impaired. Those two characters represent the fame that Artie and Bunny are trying so hard to achieve. I don’t want to ruin the play for anyone who may go see it (and you should!), but this play definitely shows that fame might not be all it’s cracked up to be.

The acting is great and I loved what Ben Stiller brought to the show. We are all used to seeing him in comedic roles and I loved seeing him in a role that combined what we are so used to seeing from him, along with that serious side. Not to mention, he also sings and plays the piano in the show!

Edie Falco was absolutely amazing as well, portraying a very damaged woman, who she compares to the character she played on the Sopranos. In an interview with The New York Times she said:

“Bananas is an extreme version of Carmela, [Soprano’s character] for sure, though they are both defined by their hopes for the future and their love for their husbands. But it’s really in my own life that I’ve met women who are perpetually disappointed like Bananas, who can’t quite regain their footing in reality. They break my heart again and again and again.”

Ben Stiller made his broadway debut in the 1986 production of this play, playing Ronnie, the son of his character now. The House of Blue Leaves is in previews right now and opens at the Walter Kerr Theater on April 25.

If you get the opportunity go see it!

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