Tuesday, June 4, 2013

This Disney Ain't Mickey Mouse

Workplace dramas are rarely as creepy as Lucas Hnath's A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney, playing at Manhattan's Soho Rep through June 9. I was grateful for open seating because I dashed down to the front row, sat on the right-hand side, and found myself within spitting distance of Larry Pine as Walt and Frank Wood as his punching-bag brother Roy. 

By creepy I mean fascinating. Was Walt really this slimy? Was Roy really such a patsy? Did Walt's daughter really refuse to name her child after Walt, which was his one pathetic wish?  (The daughter doesn't even have the honor of being named.) Did Walt's son-in-law really become heir to the empire? This is not the corporate history The Walt Disney Company would wish us to see, but neither has the Disney juggernaut suppressed it.

I love plays that make me come home and dig deeper for more information. Seek out A Public Reading if you crave a master class in acting or a plunge into the dark side of Mickey Mouse's creator. And should you call up any of the various Disney websites in your investigations, note the deft branding touch: Mickey's ears are the thumbnail icon.