Larry David's Fish In The Dark | New York threatre review by Darren Richman

Larry David's Fish In The Dark

Note: This review is from 2015

New York threatre review by Darren Richman

Bad Jews is a play currently wowing critics in London but it is a title that could just as easily apply to Larry David’s Broadway debut. Fish In The Dark broke the New York record for pre-sales but the man behind Seinfeld is typically forthright about the weight of expectation. In his own words, ‘It’s a terrible thing.’

Like Bad Jews, Fish In The Dark concerns the death of a beloved elder statesman in a Jewish family and its repercussions. David plays Normal Drexler, a man whose father dies early on and who looks, talks and behaves almost exactly like the central character in Curb Your Enthusiasm. The sexagenarian might have been famously misanthropic during his early days as a stand-up comic but it appears he’s mellowed with age and is more than willing to give the people what they want; we are even treated to a ‘prett-ay, prett-ay, prett-ay, pretty good’ late on that almost brings the house down.

David claims he wrote the play without the intention of playing the lead role but it is impossible to imagine anyone else in the part. Fortunately, Rob Reiner realised this and managed to talk his friend round. While it’s all about Larry for much of the audience, the rest of the cast are not exactly nobodies content just to make up the numbers; Rosie Perez, Jerry Adler, Rita Wilson and Ben Shenkman all figure prominently.

To say too much about the plot would be unwise but needless to say that the death of Norman’s father leads to the kind of squabbling, pettiness and hilarity we’ve come to expect from one of the world’s great comic minds. David’s character argues with a 14-year-old over whether her father helped her write a eulogy, questions the validity of Gandhi’s claim that ‘You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist’ by wondering if he knew about the fist bump and desperately tries to ensure he gets a better deal in the will than his brother.

Mainly, though, this is about the laughs and we are certainly not short-changed in that department. Like Neil Simon with added bite, the quality and quantity of the jokes is simply astounding. While it might not come together at the end quite as beautifully as the very best Curb and Seinfeld episodes, this is still a joy from start to finish.

Despite this being his first appearance on stage since he was fourteen, David dominates proceedings from the off. It’s patently obvious he’s having the time of his life and, if the season 4 Curb plot involving The Producers is anything to go by, treading the boards has been something of a lifelong dream. Most of us have come in the hope of seeing Larry David be Larry David and we do not go home disappointed. When asked what success on Broadway looks like, the man himself recently said: ‘Having fun. I think that’s it.’ Judging by his evident delight during the standing ovation, it’s fair to call Fish In The Dark a great success.

It is yet another victory for a man who cannot help but view the glass as half empty. David is the toast of Broadway but he treats triumph and disaster, those two imposters, just the same. Will he get carried away with the acclaim? Nah, he’ll probably respond much the same way he did when he won an Emmy for his work on Seinfeld: ‘This is all well and good, but I'm still bald.’

Review date: 6 Mar 2015
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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