'Fish in the Dark,' with Larry David, gets mixed reviews on Broadway

Larry David debuts on Broadway in @FishintheDark play; gets mixed reviews

"Fish in the Dark," Larry David's first Broadway play, is one of the hottest tickets in New York, playing to sold-out houses since previews began in February and generating high-profile publicity, including a "60 Minutes" profile on the veteran writer-actor of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Seinfeld." 

The comedy, which opens Friday at the Cort Theatre, has reportedly generated advance sales of $13.5 million, which would put it well on the road to profitability, if not already place it squarely in the black. Seats are going for as high as $423.

David stars in the production as a familiar version of his screen persona -- neurotic, un-politically correct and irritatingly self-absorbed. His character, Norman Drexel, has returned home as his father lies dying in a hospital. The story follows Norman's comic interactions with his extended family and how the revelation of a big secret alters their relationships with each other.

The ensemble cast includes Rita Wilson as Norman's wife, Ben Shenkman as his brother, Rosie Perez as the family domestic worker and veteran actor Jerry Adler as the ailing family patriarch.

Anna D. Shapiro, who won a Tony Award for directing "August: Osage County," has staged the play, which has a limited run through June 7.

Reviews have been mixed, but as some critics have noted, does that matter?

Ben Brantley of the New York Times delivered a mostly negative assessment, writing that "I laughed fully exactly once" during the production. The idiosyncratic humor of "Curb" has on Broadway "hardened into set postures, lines and deliveries, while throwaway humor has been exaggerated in ways that perversely shrink its impact. It doesn’t help that the performances are pitched at different levels."

Charles McNulty wrote in the L.A. Times that "This is an overextended sitcom that would like to become a farce but settles instead for some hoary Neil Simon middle ground."

The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney called the play "pure sitcom," also comparing it to the work of Neil Simon -- "classic boulevard comedy molded to fit the American Jewish family."  

Jeremy Gerard of Deadline described the show as "good as some episodes of 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' and 'Seinfeld.'" The show has the "added thrill of seeing Larry David shrug, blink, holler, wince, pace and blurt, up close and personal."

New York magazine's Jesse Green called the production "well built, occasionally thoughtful, and consistently very funny if not transcendently so." But he faulted David's performance, saying that "onstage he simply does not have the craft or delicacy ideally required."

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT 

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