One of my Christmas gifts for my girlfriend was getting tickets to a Broadway show, something I had never experienced before despite spending a big chunk of my life growing up less than 50 miles from New York City.  She had experienced a Broadway musical previously but not a play.  Relatively Speaking was her choice, and I cannot tell you how happy I was she chose this brilliant production!

The Brooks Atkinson Theater was the place to go in NYC - a beautiful old theater that has aged very well after 85 years of existence.  Small theater by Broadway standards with around 1000 seats, there did not seem to be a bad seat in that theater anywhere.  We were in prime seats on the floor within 15 rows of the stage, middle section, and aisle seats (highly recommend this for easier access to the bar and bathroom - yes those lines can get a little crazy!).

The show was a production that featured the talented writing of  legends Woody Allen and Ethan Coen of the Coen Brothers - that's 7 Oscar wins coming together to create 3 One-Act Plays that brought non-stop laughter throughout the near 2-hour production.

Coen's contribution came first with "Talking Cure" - focusing in on the treatment of a patient in a mental hospital which Max Casella as the patient brought some of the biggest laughs of the production.  Casella is someone you grew up with on TV as the best friend of Doogie Howser, M.D.  He's recent work in The Sopranos (Benny Fazio) and Boardwalk Empire (Leo) has helped him develop his own style - rough and gruff with a wit that Joe Pesci should be jealous of today!

Two-time Oscar nominee Elaine May contributes the 2nd act called "George Is Dead" - picture your worst nightmare knocking at your door and not leaving.  Doreen shows up and Carla's door after her husband George has just died.  Carla's mom was Doreen's nanny back in the day, and Doreen is like an overgrown child who does not want to deal - creating a hysterical view that is brought home with brilliance by Marlo Thomas.  Yes it is That Girl!  The 4-time Emmy winner should earn a Tony Award nomination for her act that brought the loudest applause of the night.  Credit Lisa Emery for keeping up with Thomas as Carla, and Grant Shaud (Miles Silverberg on Murphy Brown) appearing here as Carla's husband who has had his last straw with Doreen there.

Woody's contribution was pure genius in "Honeymoon Motel" - a couple arrives to a tacky motel after just getting married, but the story has so many twists.  You see the groom (Steve Guttenberg of the Police Academy movies) has stolen his stepson's bride, and then his wife and stepson's mother (Caroline Aaron, an Allen favorite from Crimes and Misdermeanors), the bride's parents (Mark Linn-Baker and Julie Kavner, also veterans of past Allen films), the rabbi, the stepson, the shrink who treats the groom who stole the bride, and a pizza delivery guy find themselves in this farce that matches any previous Allen work!

Major kudos to John Turturro for directing this great production.  Turturro had worked with Allen in Hannah and Her Sisters, and Coen in O Brother, Where Art Thou, plus has held in his own in other Oscar winning films like The Color Of Money and Quiz Show.  His future may be secured after this directing job (somebody tell Hollywood).

A night on Broadway is such a great evening to enjoy with your significant other.  Grab a NJ Transit train into Penn Station (which we did from Matawan), and plan a dinner with a great show.  Now this is not the cheapest night out, but it is incredibly rewarding.

Sadly Relatively Speaking is ending its run in the next week or so, but there are some other shows for you to check out:

Cynthia Nixon is earning major reviews for her performance in Wit, playing a woman with Stage 4 cancer.  Nixon, a former Tony Award winner and one of the girls from Sex and The City, has the biggest attetion getting photo to promote the play - she agreed to shave her head for the role (at the Manhattan Theater Club).

Oscar winner Phillip Seymour Hoffman is coming to the stage and bright lights of Broadway with a revival of the Arthur Miller classic Death of A Salesman (starting March 15th at the Barrymore).

Ricky Martin will be "Livin' La Vida Loca" as part of the revival of Evita.  This show will be under big scrutiny because of the past success by Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin in this classic musical (opening April 5th @ The Marquis Theater).

One of the greatest "Chick Flicks" of all time gets the Broadway treatment when Ghost comes this spring (April 23rd at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater)

Broadway offers something for everyone, and I guarantee that you will be blown away with every part of your experience - from the lights of Times Square, to the theater experience, and the great dining the city has tio offer.  Make it a part of your vacation time this year!