Two quick picks, because it's too darn hot, and I'm mostly outta brain cells today. But please, go see these fine pieces of entertainment.
First, the movie Little Miss Sunshine, currently in a limited run, but going to wide release Aug. 18. This Sundance darling manages to wrap goofy fun and touching character studies into one modest yet hilarious road trip movie, with great performances all around, especially from the two kids in the dysfunctional family, who are utterly believable. Neither Paul Dano nor Abigail Breslin are new to acting, but they give off that plucked-from-nowhere natural charm.
Next, the play A Stone Carver, currently running at the Soho Playhouse on Vandam Street and starring Dan Lauria, the dad from "The Wonder Years," whom I loved in the not-so-long-ago production of Ears on a Beatle at DR2. I can't say I really cared much either way in the whole eminent domain debate, but this play certainly makes you feel for the homeowner. Yet it's so much more than that: Lauria's performance is so rich, it's worth the price of admission. And the way William Mastrosimone wrote the character, he can make you feel guilty at times for liking the old-country Italian-American stone carver father. Lauria mixes equal parts of rough and smooth to create the portrait of a man who's hard to like at times, but easy to love, despite some of his old-world habits and prejudices. At the end of the day, he's a sweethearted man with a lot of wisdom to pass along, even if his son, played by Jim Iorio, doesn't want to follow in his craftsman footsteps (he'd rather own the business). Elizabeth Rossa, who plays the fiancee of the son, is a little uneven in spots, but she scores several important scenes with the father character that show how the stone carver can really win people over, despite his trademark abrasiveness. And during these scenes, she proves an able foil to his jokes and teasing. His nickname for her is "pasta asciutta" (dry pasta), and it's a perfect example of how he turns a mild insult into a term of endearment during the course of the play.