Delights and Disappointments On Broadway and Off. Intimacy on Stage. Week in New York Theater

BroadwayAPABroadway  is one of the ten greatest streets in America in 2014, according to the American Planning Association, to which the average New Yorker might reply — “Just in 2014?” “There are nine others?”

The association means the street that begins downtown and goes on and on for 14 miles, not the metaphor for the theater that it has become.

What we’ve seen this week is that Broadway (as in theater) can be great — witness The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night-Time — or it can be disappointing — The Country House and the latest King Lear — or somewhere in-between.  Below are reviews of the three shows that opened last week on Broadway,  two Off-Broadway, and one on television (Scroll to “3” for an explanation.)

There was much news as well, including the announcement of this year’s inductees into the Theater Hall of Fame, and three new shows set for Broadway.

The Week in New York Theater Sept 28-Oct 5


You Can’t Take It With YouLongacre Theatre

My review of You Can’t Take It With You

In the 78 years since Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman debuted their comedy on Broadway – a show for which words like wacky and zany and madcap were surely coined — there have been many, many such families…The show’s characters and plot have clearly inspired everything from The Addams Family to La Cage Aux Folles to Arrested Development — and arguably, one way or another, every other “family” sitcom on TV….If the humor is more familiar now, “You Can’t Take It With You” is in the hands of a first-rate director, who has assembled a meticulous team of designers, added original music by Jason Robert Brown, and cast some wonderful performers to blow things up — sometimes literally.

Full review



Finding Neverland, the musical about the creator of Peter Pan which has just closed at A.R.T. in Cambridge, will open on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on April 8.

For 2015-16 season: first-ever Broadway revival of Children of a Lesser God, about deaf student and teacher, directed by Kenny Leon (Fences, Raisin in the Sun, Holla If Ya Hear Me.)

His “Sons of the Prophet” was a winner. Now Stephen Karam follows up with “The Humans,” directed  by Joe Mantello, Fall 2015 at the Roundabout.

Where is the debate in the arts – Is there too much focus on consensus?

Tennessee Williams

John Lahr talks to Tony Kushner about Tennessee Williams

“Over the course of his life, you see in his work how his heart opens, flowers and atrophies.”
“When you know you can be great, how do you remain a good person?”That question spurred Lahr to try to figure out Williams.”
(John Lahr hints that his interest in this great vs. good dichotomy comes from trying to figure out his own dad, Bert Lahr, the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz)
In Streetcar, Stanley was originally named Ralph and sold cemetery plots — the deathforce to Blanche’s lifeforce.
“Everybody who was there for Tennessee Williams, who helped him, he betrayed”
Williams’ later plays might have worked better Off-Broadway, but Williams grew up in an era when Broadway was everything, so he didn’t go there. Tony Kushner: The end of Broadway as central to US theater, says Kushner, accompanied by “dissipation of importance of playwriting as a form”

92nd Street Y Lyrics and Lyricists schedule for 2015:
Sondheim & Hal Prince Jan
Hollywood Ladies Feb
NYC Songs March
Irving Berlin in Film May
Fiddler May

Roderick Hill as David and Erik Heger as his rapist
Roderick Hill as David and Erik Heger as his rapist

My review of Stalking the Bogeyman

At the age of seven, David Holthouse was raped by his teenage neighbor. Twenty-five years later, he decided to kill the man – both to avenge the crime, and to prevent any more from occurring.

Holthouse, a journalist, gave a first-person account of this true story in 2004 for the newspaper where he was working at the time, Westword. In 2011, it was turned into a segment on the radio programThis American Life. And now, it’s a play Off-Broadway at New World Stages.

Markus Potter heard David Holthouse’s This American Life podcast on his car radio and was so overwhelmed he had to pull his car over. As both adapter and director, Potter has created a production that is impeccable in its stagecraft – paradoxically, too impeccable.

Full review of Stalking The Bogeyman


2014 Theater Hall of Fame Inductees:

Directors Susan Stroman & Marshall Mason, former critic Frank Rich, playwright Alfred Uhry
actors F. Murray Abraham, Alvin Epstein, and Blythe Danner, Shubert chairman Philip J. Smith

Newly formed in UK – @Stagedirectors, a union/trade group aimed at protecting directors rights and increasing their fees.

Nerds, new musical about Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, aims for a spring 2015 opening on Broadway.

Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth in The Audience
Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth in The Audience

The Queen (Helen Mirren) will bring her prime ministers to Broadway, the cast from the London production of The Audience.


New York Theater September 2014 Quiz


Indian InkLaura Pels Theatre

My review of Indian Ink

Indian Ink,” which has now opened at the Laura Pels, is receiving its New York premiere some 19 years after it was written, one of two Stoppard plays in the city this season, both produced by the Roundabout. “The Real Thing,” which opens on Broadway October 30th, is more accessible than this play in the Roundabout’s Off-Broadway theater. Part detective story, part love story, part history and geography lesson, “Indian Ink” is also an art lesson of sorts – there is some engrossing conversation about how Indian art differs from Western art – as well as a meditation on the nature of history and biography…how much can we be certain about the past?

All of this would surely be more easily dismissed as too obscure (and the play’s three hour length too much to take in) were it not for the presence of the delectable Romola Garai as Flora and the always-luminous Rosemary Harris as her no-nonsense sister Mrs. Swan.

Full review of Indian Ink


October 1

It’s official: Dr. Zhivago, a musical based on the Boris Pasternak novel, is coming to Broadyway. It begins at Broadway Theater March 27; opens April 21


October Openings

Off-Broadway Week, 2-for-1 tickets, now through Oct 12.

Full report


Anna D Shapiro, Broadway director of August:Osage County, The Motherfucker with the Hat, Of Mice and Men, This is Our Youth and the forthcoming Fish in the Dark, has been named artistic director of Steppenwolf Theater, a surprise move.


“It’s very inspiring to jump off of those images that Shakespeare puts in language.” Julie Taymor on latest film, Midsummer Nights Dream 

What it costs to be an actor (average income $7.5k): $150 voice lesson,$800 acting classes,$1,000 headshots


My review of King Lear

Finally, the Lear nobody’s been waiting for, a Lear for people not in the mood for tragedy, a Lear Light, an economic Lear, cast with just eight actors, who not only portray multiple characters but also sing, dance, wink, and play the accordion, drums and trombone. The most astonishing aspect of the touring King Lear at the Skirball Center through October 12th, which stars Joseph Marcell, best-known as Geoffrey the butler in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” is that it’s a production of Shakespeare’s Globe, the same company that brought Mark Rylance’s brilliant Twelfth Night in a double bill with Richard III to Broadway last season. That Twelfth Night was the best Twelfth Night, and surely one of the best of any Shakespeare production, I’ve ever seen.

I won’t call the Shakespeare Globe’s King Lear the worst I’ve ever seen, for two reasons.

Full Review of King Lear

All three pairs of Johans and Mariannes
All three pairs of Johans and Mariannes

Intimacy and the Theater
Everybody seems to want intimacy, at least on stage; one advocate recently declared that “intimacy” should be one of the values that replace “excellence” and “growth” as a measure of a theater’s success. But what precisely do we mean? Most people these days understand intimacy to be: 1.) A euphemism for sex, 2.) A synonym for love, 3.) Physical closeness, 4.) Emotional closeness—or some combination of all four. I’ll assume that most theater people are not pushing for more sex on stage (with the possible exception of Thomas Bradshaw, whose ironically-titled Intimacy was an explicit look at amateur pornographers in the suburbs). But four current shows in New York—two on Broadway, one Off-Broadway, and one in a public park—have raised some intriguing questions about how and whether the various conceptions of intimacy interconnect.

Full article



Stephen Plunkett, right, as the cad Mr. Brewer puts the moves on Elise Kibler
Stephen Plunkett, right, as the cad Mr. Brewer puts the moves on Elise Kibler

TV vs Theater: Mint Theater’s London Wall on WNET’s Theater Close-Up

The lives, loves and letdowns of women in an office in John Van Druten’s 1931 play “London Wall” were presented a little differently at the Mint Theater earlier this year than on television last night, when the production was the first Off-Broadway play to be broadcast in the new WNET series, Theater Close-Up.

New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley talks to Playbill about his role as a critic,how he got there


Daniel Sunjata and Blythe Danner
Daniel Sunjata and Blythe Danner

My review of The Country House

To help explain how “The Country House” could be so mediocre despite an award-winning playwright’s classic inspiration, a first-rate production and an exemplary cast, let’s start with a scene involving all six characters in the play….

Michael: What happened?
Nell: It’s too trivial to go into. Actor stuff. I was up for a pilot; I didn’t get it.

Donald Margulies, the Pulitzer-winning playwright who was full of insight about marriage in the exquisite “Dinner With Friends,” has filled this new play, an MTC production running at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater through November 9, with…actor stuff that’s too trivial to go into – but he goes into it anyway.

Full review of The Country House


Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Ethel Barrymore Theatre
My review of The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time

Like the unusual character at its center, “The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time,” a stage adaptation of a beloved book, overcomes a couple of daunting challenges to become….extraordinary.

I loved the peculiar novel by Mark Haddon from the moment ten years ago that I looked at the cover, with its cutout of an upside-down dog, and started reading this “murder mystery novel,” where the victim is a dog named Wellington, and the narrator an amateur sleuth named Christopher Boone. Christopher is a 15-year-old student of a special ed school who’s too literal-minded to understand jokes or metaphors, and screams whenever anybody touches him, but can explain the Milky Way galaxy and prime numbers…and solve a murder.

…Marianne Elliott, the British director who last brought to Broadway the spectacular National Theatre production of “War Horse”, works her magic again.

Complete review of The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time


Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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