You know John Kander as the composer of such high octane anthems as “New York, New York” and “All That Jazz.”
With “The Landing,” an elegant triptych of shows at the Vineyard Theatre that runs well under two hours, his tone is elegiac. He’s in a metaphysical, not New York, frame of mind.
The evening starts with “Andra,” a coming-of-age tale about a boy with a lonely mother. He strikes up a friendship with a good-looking, star-gazing carpenter (the title refers to the constellation Andromeda) who gives him a spyglass. Mistake.
“The Brick,” in the center of the show, gets loopy as a woman in love with movies and the past orders a souvenir of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre online. That brick comes dancingly alive. The woman and her nephew start speaking gangsterese in the TV’s blue light.
In the final story, “The Landing,” a loving gay couple adopt what appears to be the perfect child and take an unanticipated journey.
It might all be artily elliptical were it not for Walter Bobbie’s direction of a superb cast that includes Julia Murney in the women’s parts, Frankie Seratch as the boy, Paul Anthony Stewart in several male parts and, best of all, David Hyde Pierce as narrator, gangster and husband.
Hyde Pierce brings sly warmth and a wounded power to these sketches, which unfold like Ann Beattie short stories.
They happen to have been written by his gifted nephew, Greg Pierce, who had a major debut last year with “Slowgirl.” He writes with concision and delicacy.
But it’s Kander’s music that’s the big reveal here. Unlike the legendary Broadway scores he wrote with his late partner Fred Ebb (“Cabaret,” “Chicago”), the music for “The Landing” is impressionistic, closer to Debussy than to Richard Rodgers.
Kander is 86 and, familiar as his music is, we’re still getting to know him.
Through Nov. 24 at the Vineyard Theatre, 108 E. 15th St. Information: +1-212-353-0303; http://www.vineyardtheatre.org. Rating: ***1/2
On Broadway, “Weeds” star Mary-Louise Parker returns with an engaging, sensuous performance in the world premiere of Sharr White’s “The Snow Geese.”
As the title suggests, this play by the writer of the extraordinary “The Other Place,” is Chekhovian in look, if not tone.
The family lodge near Syracuse, New York in 1917 is well-populated. Elizabeth Gaesling (Parker) is the widowed mother of steadfast Arnold (Brian Cross) and his flamboyant, favored brother Duncan (Evan Jonigkeit).
Also at home: Elizabeth’s sister Clarissa (Victoria Clark) and German husband Max (Danny Burstein), as well as the maid (Jessica Love), a recent emigre from Ukraine.
As the pampered Duncan is heading off to war, Arnold has discovered that his father left the family deep in debt, a reality Elizabeth is ill-equipped to comprehend.
Staged by Daniel Sullivan and played in on John Lee Beatty’s bosky set, “The Snow Geese” is derivative of other works about favored children and the damage done by the parents who dote on them.
Still, the scenes in which Duncan and Max duke it out for acceptance and come to a wrenching reconciliation are touching. And Parker is translucent as a woman subsumed by her own passions -- and remorse.
Through Dec. 15 at the Friedman Theatre, 261 W. 47th St. Information: +1-212-239-6200; http://www.telecharge.com. Rating: ***
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(Jeremy Gerard is the chief U.S. drama critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
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