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In Terrence McNally’s backstage comedy “It’s Only A Play,” bound for Broadway in 1978 and finally arrived there 36 years later, a group of stars — played by a group of stars — await for the reviews of a Broadway show opening night — which is what they are doing tonight.
What DID the critics think?
Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater: …A show whose first half hour is the funniest I’ve seen all season, and whose overlong second act is among the dullest.. I’ll credit Nathan Lane for the first, and blame Terrence McNally for the latter…Despite the present-day setting and the almost desperate-seeming addition of topical references — selfies; sexting; chat rooms; a nearly bizarre listing of almost two dozen first-rate contemporary (mostly non-Broadway) playwrights such as Lynn Nottage, Christopher Shinn, and Julia Cho — the premise of the play is so out-of-date as to make McNally seem stuck in the past. (As if to prove this, he throws in “Monica Lewinsky” as the punch line to the list of playwrights.)
Ben Brantley, New York Times: deliriously dishy revival…[Nathan Lane[ is sterling. He and [Stockard[ Channing — who is hilarious as a washed-up, substance-and-plastic-surgery-abusing Hollywood star — give the show a sheen and a heart it might otherwise lack. Megan Mullally is rather endearing as a clueless but kind rich-lady producer in whose deluxe townhouse (designed by Scott Pask) the show is set. F. Murray Abraham seems to be enjoying himself as a mean old critic who really just wants to belong to the club. Micah Stock (whose name in the ads is quaintly prefaced by “and introducing”) is charming as a hatcheck boy with Broadway dreams. Rupert Grint is a bit too overcharged as a wunderkind director out of Britain, and Matthew Broderick a bit too undercharged as the beleaguered playwright. They might benefit from reciprocal blood transfusions. But all the cast members fulfill their raisons d’être, which is to sling a whole lot of mud in the nicest possible way….As for Mr. McNally’s play itself… it mostly has the depth of a shot glass
Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: B+ a hilarious and star-packed evening of theater in-jokes that often plays like a nonmusical version of Forbidden Broadway….Despite McNally’s considerable revisions, there’s just not enough plot here to sustain a two-and-a-half-hour show.
Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal: already the hottest ticket in town—and rightly so….directed with cattle-prodding energy by Jack O’Brien, is as funny as the new Broadway revival of “You Can’t Take It With You” tries too hard to be.
Linda Winer, Newsday: this is the rare Broadway comedy that’s as smart as it is funny.
David Cote, Time Out New York: 2 stars (out of 5): Mostly plotless and spun from the sketchiest of stereotypes and hoariest of showbiz prejudices, this insider trifle is too long, too shallow and not nearly funny enough.
Joe Dziemianowicz, Daily News: 3 stars (out of 5): Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick made magic and a megahit together in “The Producers” …Now the Great White Way’s dynamic duo is back on stage in Terrence McNally’s 1985 comedy “It’s Only a Play.” The reunion is wildly hit and miss — Lane is the hit, while Broderick is the, well, you know.
Elizabeth Vincentelli, New York Post: 2 stars (out of 4): Thank heaven for Nathan Lane, an alchemist who turns comic lead into gold. And he’s been handed a lot of lead in “It’s Only a Play.” Terrence McNally’s 1980s backstage romp has been spruced up with contemporary zings, but quips about James Franco and Alec Baldwin can’t hide its creaky bones and sagging spirit….That a reviewer would be at the opening-night party of a show he’s going to write about is one of the play’s dumbest conceits.
David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: The material is slight, but these actors give it a lift, with one notable exception [Matthew Broderick]
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: The comedy’s slight plot, about the high drama (and low comedy) of the opening night of a new Broadway show, is still a trifle. But the well-aimed and highly personal zingers are more malicious, and delicious, this time out.
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: a rollicking comedy with perfect casting and deft direction…four-time Tony Award-winning McNally has earned his right to laugh – this is his 21st Broadway production – and his knife work is like that of a five-star chef: enough to bleed, but good-naturedly enough to not nick the bone.
Robert Hofler, The Wrap: If only it were a better play…A lot has changed on Broadway in 30 years, but for McNally it all comes down to changing not much more than a few tons of famous names.
Matt Windman, AMNY: While act one offers plenty of silly, lightweight fun, the play essentially collapses in the self-indulgent, overly sentimental act two.