Two Comedies: “To Rome With Love” and “Peter and the Starcatcher”

Here's a contrast.  A few days ago I went to see Woody Allen's new film, "To Rome With Love," and yesterday evening I saw Rick Elice's play, "Peter and the Starcatcher."  Both comedies, but of a very different sort.

In "To Rome With Love," Woody Allen continues his progression through various European locales (he has in recent years shot films in England, France and Spain), now focusing on Rome – both the Rome of the tourists and the Rome of the natives, with a humorous look at their interaction.  After all, Rome is a city whose economy depends heavily on tourism, so combining the two makes sense.  I thought there were many more laughs in this one than in "Midnight in Paris," his previous European excursion, but ultimately I found "MIdnight" the more interesting film because of the amusing way he presented historical characters from the Parisian cultural scene of the 1920s, interacting with a "time traveling" modern American.  There is, basically, one story line running through "Midnight in Paris."  "To Rome With Love" presents several simultaneous story lines, cutting back and forth between them.  One expects them to intersect, but they don't – they just continue as parallel story lines. 

That said, each of the parallel story lines is interesting, and some really comical situations develop.  I was entertained and engaged throughout.  There is also an interesting intermingling here of familiar American actors and mainly unfamiliar Italian actors.  Some of the action takes place in Italian with English subtitles.  My favorite character is the funeral director, Giancarlo, played by Fabio Armiliato, a familiar name because Armiliato sings at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. He is a funeral director who loves to sing in the shower and has a great voice, but outside the shower he's a musical dud.  Woody Allen, playing the American father of a young woman who has fallen in love with Giancarlo's son, Michelangelo (played charmingly by Flavio Parenti), is a retired opera director who overhears Giancarlo singing in the shower and makes big plans for his operatic career – with hilarious results.

Anyway, I think this one is definitely worth seeing, even though it is not quite in the class of "Midnight in Paris."

As for "Peter and the Starcatcher"…  This is a light-hearted prequel to the familiar Peter Pan story, giving a "back story" to Peter and Captain Hook.  It comes across like typical British nonsense comedy, lots of slapstick, lots of punning (most of it outrageous) – in short, Monty Python and Spamalot are definite godfathers of this show.  That said, the large cast manages all the silliness very well, especially the leads – Christian Borle as "Black Stache" – the pirate leader who will become our celebrated Captain; Adam Chanler-Berat as the nameless orphan boy who will become Peter; and Celia Keenan-Bolger as the fierce tomboy-girl who will eventually grow up to be the mother of Wendy in the Peter Pan stories.  Lots of energy is expended on stage, and the audience is kept enthralled.  At Broadway prices, one might expect something a bit deeper, but it is what it is and for what it is it is exceedingly well done.

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