‘Fish in the Dark’ is ‘Seinfeld’ on Stage and Vintage Larry David
There’s a moment in Fish in the Dark where Larry responds to a question about how grabbing a breast was and he answers with, “Pretty good. Prettayyyyy, prettayyyyy, prettayyyyy good.” The audience erupts into applause and you’re just like what is going on? This man has no business on stage. But you simultaneously know exactly what is going on. You’re getting precisely what you want. You’re not only seeing Larry David acting on Broadway, but him totally serving it up to the audience and they couldn’t be happier with it.
Imagine if there were a Seinfeld episode set entirely in the waiting room during Susan’s diagnosis. That’s pretty much the first half of Fish in the Dark, as hospital minutiae and etiquette is dug into, like whether you tip a doctor or if you should bring a date to the hospital. The play explores the idea of Larry’s character’s father passing away, and his dying words getting garbled up and possible misconstrued. What follows is Larry trying to figure out and navigate around this boulder and the severe consequences of either direction he goes in. Then this idea doubles down on itself in typical Larry David fashion.
None of this feels out of Larry’s comfort zone, with the play largely just being scenes of people talking and mini bottle episodes, something that Seinfeld was well versed in. The show opens on Larry in a suit jacket and shirt. He’s again not so much acting as he is just complaining and talking on stage. But you’d have it no other way. I was almost hoping for a Curb-esque moment where he forgot his lines and just spitballed with the audience.
Through all of this, the play explores and focuses heavily on family, but specifically the idea of family and obligation. This is something that we’ve seen brought up countless times in Larry’s other works, and here family is the obligation and is therefore the conflict. Togetherness and family act as the antagonists here as these characters try to avoid closeness. It’s perfect Larry, and well suited for the stage more so than Curb or another TV movie like he explored with Clear History (although this has the same exaggerated romp-y feel to it).
Plenty of vintage David topics are put under the microscope here, like whether you dunk bagels, the idea of asking for the blessing for a proposal, a character who can recall events from any event in her life as if it were some lip reading skill, whether it’s “walk the walk and talk the talk” or “walk the talk,” or Larry antagonizing a 14-year-old over who had the better eulogy. All sorts of things that you’d never expect to see discussed on Broadway. Every single minor subplot also dovetails and connects by the end of the show, in not the best manner, but it happens because of course it does. There’s even Kramer-like hijinx with Larry trying to orchestrate someone pretending to be a ghost to con his mother. You’re really getting a bit of everything here.
And it’s all good, too! Quite good. It even feels like material we’d have seen on another season of Curb (especially the minor topics), so it’s highly recommended in that sense to just see Larry and others talking about nothing (sorry) and breaking down society. The title itself is a reference to a piece of dialogue over etiquette about eating fish in the dark. This isn’t Hamlet here, but it feels like about a solid B+ episode of Curb.
All of this amounts to be an exciting, hilarious spectacle that works much more than it doesn’t, with you still not being able to believe that this is actually happening. It probably won’t be the best show that you see on Broadway this year, but it’s a very pleasant experience and one that should scratch that Curb itch of yours.
But did you see how much parking costs? And then the walk to the theater? I mean, why should you even…
Fish in the Dark can be seen Tuesday through Sunday at the Cort Theatre in New York City.