Saturday, April 20, 2024

Broadway: Larry David’s “Fish” Gets Fried by Critics, Plus All Press Banned from Opening


No photos from last night’s premiere of “Fish in the Dark” on Broadway. All press was banned, including all photographers. “No photo op,” the edict from Scott Rudin’s office according to the photo agencies. Unusual? Unheard of. What were they afraid of?

While reviewers were busy finding metaphors for the play’s deficiencies– how about this fish stinks from the head?– a blackout occurred from the premiere. Earlier in the day yesterday, the publicist planted an item in the Daily News extolling who would be coming to the opening night. Sally Field! Tom Hanks!

But were they there? There’s no evidence of it on line. I will assume Tom Hanks saw the show– his wife, Rita Wilson, is in it. But the “Seinfeld” cast? Most of them were in Los Angeles, where Jessica Seinfeld had had a fundraising event at The Palm for her Baby Buggy charity. Jerry, George, and Kramer were all there having a reunion.

Meantime, as I knew on that first day, “Fish” is getting fried. I feel bad. It’s not a play. It’s completely dependent on Larry playing “Larry,” here called “Norman.” No one in the audience cares. They are by and large David’s TV fans and not theatergoers. One reviewer called this a celebrity appearance. True enough.

I am a devout “Curb Your Enthusiasm” fan. One episode, called “Palestinian Chicken,” should have gotten a Pulitzer prize. The show is pure genius. I’m one of those people who keeps waiting for a new season. One of the great seasons was the one in which Larry was set to appear in “The Producers” on Broadway. Mel Brooks and the late Anne Bancroft are in it. The final episode, a parody of “The Producers” within “The Producers” is beyond brilliant. There’s another episode which a member of the show “Survivor” meets a Holocaust survivor. Again. Come on. I’m still laughing.

But “Fish” is coarse. It’s bathroom humor, it’s stupid. I think the flashes of greatness in it, if boiled down, would fill a half hour. Even though David’s done it before, there’s a riff on tipping that’s excellent. But the whole business of Larry’s “mother” (actress Jane Houdyshell, much younger than Larry David) having sex with a young man she supposedly thinks is her dead husband– not ready for Broadway. And all the relatives who show up– it’s like they’re from an early 1960s movie. They’re stereotypes that don’t work anymore except in revivals.

What does it matter, anyway? I said from that first preview that this would be like printing money. They’ve made $13 million. People are selling kidneys to get a seat. Maybe if they can’t get in they’ll try something a little heftier by accident and have a theater revelation.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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