Theater Company Gives New Life to Broadway Bombs

By Nigel Chiwaya on February 5, 2013 5:24pm 

NEW YORK CITY — In 1983, Arthur Bicknell's play "Moose Murders" became the stuff of Broadway legend.

The play, about a family that travels to a moose lodge before the death of the family patriarch, was so negatively received that it opened and closed on the same night. New York Times theater critic Frank Rich later called it "the worst play I've ever seen on a Broadway stage."

The performance was so bad that 26 years later, AARP magazine listed it alongside the Watergate break-in and paper clothing on its 50 biggest flops list.

The negative reviews may have scared off audiences in 1983, but they're not scaring off the Beautiful Soup Theater Collective, a New York City theater group that has put the show back on stage at the Connelly Theater in Alphabet City. 

Beautiful Soup specializes in reviving flops; last year the company brought back "A Doll's Life," which received negative reviews in 1982.

"Most of the plays that we do were on Broadway and were huge flops," said Orlando Iriarte, Beautiful Soup's execute director. "We like to give the author of the play a second chance to relive it, possibly the right way."

Beautiful Soup's performance of "Moose Murders" features a revised script, with the alterations written by Bicknell himself. And cast members all say that the performance isn't trying to run from its legendary status. If anything, the play embraces its history.

"It's the most ridiculous play in whole world," said Beautiful Soup founder Steve McCasland, who plays Howie, a blind lounge singer. "There are certain moments in the show where the audience laughs knowingly at the material. I think they know that in many ways we're laughing too."

"Arthur's in on the joke this time," added Anna Kirkland, who plays Hedda Holloway. "He has little digs at himself within the script."

Like the original production, the revival is getting its share of harsh reviews. In the New York Post, critic Frank Scheck called the play a "tedious farce." The New York Times called it "barely endurable."

The company expected the harsh reviews; after all they're inspired by the biggest flop in Broadway history. Iriarte said that the company isn't staging the play for reviews.

"We did it to bring it back after 30 years." Iriarte said. "We wanted to do it because everyone's been asking. It's one of those shows with a cult following."

"Moose Murders" is showing at the Connelly Theater until Feb. 10. Tickets can be purchased at the company's website.

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