In what may be the busiest October for theater in generations, there are fifteen shows scheduled to open on Broadway, more than half of which are new, as well as much Off and Off Off Broadway fare (as my reviews this past week already attest.) It’s also a week after “Broadway is Back” was repeated like a mantra during the oddest Tony Awards ceremony in memory (and the lowest rated in history, with just 2.62 million viewers, according to Nielsen.)
But the month also began with the news that more than 700,000 Americans have now died from the coronavirus, surpassing the number who died from the 1918 flu. Although the number of new cases has been dropping in the last month, New York theater got some unwelcome reminders that the pandemic is not over.
“Aladdin” shut down a day after it reopened because of several breakthrough COVID-19 cases within the company. It then briefly resumed but then canceled performances until Oct 12th after more company members tested positive.
Second Stage Theater has pushed the opening of “Letters of Suresh” by Rajiv Joseph to October 12, because a company member tested positive for Covid, and the understudy assuming the role needs time to settle into it.
So it’s not surprising that mask mandates and proof of vaccination at Broadway’s theaters, which were initially instituted until October, have been extended to the end of the year.
The pandemic is continuing to take its toll on theater indirectly as well, with several shows delaying openings because of cast injuries – which some have attributed to the eighteen months of inactivity.
It’s a time, in short, of continuing collective trauma. Might it be better for people in the theater to lay off the boosterism a tad and acknowledge the trauma? This includes critics. Bill Marx astutely argues in Arts Fuse that critics (he singles out the ones in Boston) should be calling out theaters for their programming — “The coming crop of comedies, musicals, and tap-dancing extravagances may well be entertaining, but it is easy to see that they have been picked for their power to reassure theater’s predominately white audiences that all is well.” Instead, asks Vanessa Thorpe in the Guardian, are critics (she singles out the ones in London) engaging in “a clandestine pact to encourage audiences back out with some concerted cheerleading?”
The Week in New York Theater Reviews
In this slight musical comedy with an on-the-nose title, Broadway veteran Bryonha Marie Parham portrays a fading diva named Regina Comet who hires two aspiring jingle writers (Alex Wyse and Ben Fankhauser, who also wrote the musical in which they’re performing) to create a jingle for her new fragrance…The creative duo [seems to be] attempting to channel their Borscht Belt ancestors.
edlam’s return to live in-person theater with its new adaptation of Jane Austen’s romantic final novel — about a woman who meets once again the man whose proposal of marriage she rejected eight years earlier – follows up on a decade of the theater company’s consistently innovative and timely staging of the classics….I was wholeheartedly engaged with the play –- for the last 15 minutes. The previous two hours — not so much.
“Lunch With Sonia” launches the ninth edition of the festival,..inspired by [Federico Restrepo’s] actual Aunt Sonia Jaramillo, who decided to end her life in 2012 at the age of 72 before her debilitating illness would make her lose her senses.
Aya Ogawa’s sly, strange and ultimately rewarding autobiographical play that’s at the Japan Society through October 10, focuses on Ogawa’s long-dead father and their failed relationship…It takes a while to realize the play is relentlessly driving home its themes of failure and vulnerability, because so much of it seems to be informal, light, random, digressive, its characters chatting about things like the TV series The Bachelorette.
In “Chasing Jack,” nothing is as it seems. That’s true of Dr. Jack Chase, the heart surgeon who is being sued for malpractice after his patient died on the operating table. And it’s true of the play itself by John S. Anastasi, a ham-handed courtroom drama that is full of increasingly implausible plot twists, so much so that I normally wouldn’t give it much chance for survival.
The Week in New York Theater News
Lincoln Center is reviving Thornton Wilder’s 1943 Pulitzer Prize winning drama, “The Skin of Our Teeth,” opening April 25 2022, directed by Lileana Blain Cruz, which follows the Antrobus family of Excelsior, New Jersey, as they persevere through an Ice Age, a Biblical flood, and war — a model of human endurance.
Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga will star in “Macbeth” directed by Sam Gold, opening April 28, 2022 at Broadway’s Lyceum Theater
From a NY Times interview with Craig (mostly about his last James Bond film)
You’re returning to Broadway next year to star in “Macbeth.” What got you interested in that particular play?
It’s the only other Shakespeare play I’ve read. [Laughs.] No, it’s always been one of my favorites. It’s very difficult. It’s fast-paced and not particularly long. There’s an opportunity to do something. Broadway has taken such a kicking, like every other industry, and to do something spectacular and magical and weird, to try to get that on Broadway and help out and give it as much of a boost as possible — I know we can do a wonderful production. There will be plenty of things going on, on Broadway next year, and I wanted to join in.
How does one prepare to play Macbeth?
You learn the lines. We’ve got lots and lots of ideas, all of which are just in the conversation stage right now. We workshop the play for two weeks in November and then we’ll start rehearsals in the new year. Hopefully in those two weeks we’ll nail some of these ideas down. And then you just go from there. Thank God we’ve got Sam Gold and Ruth….Macbeth is one of those characters who’s reported on, at first, as being this warrior who can slice a person from their nut sack to their throat. But he’s closer to Hamlet than anything because he’s so inward-looking. I’m just looking forward to getting my teeth into that.
Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra have become producers of “Chicken & Biscuits,” which opens Oct 10 at Circle in the Square
Congratulations to Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, 70, a choreographer who founded the performance ensemble Urban Bush Women, , one of the 25 recipients of the 2021 MacArthur Foundation genius” grant.