Orphans Review: Alec Baldwin Without Shia LaBeouf..But With Tom Sturridge

Orphans on Broadway with Alec Baldwin, Ben Foster and Tom Sturridge Orphans on BroadwayUpdate: Orphans will close on May 19, 2013

In the much-publicized fracas over “Orphans,” when Shia LaBeouf was fired after clashing with co-star Alec Baldwin and replaced by Ben Foster, the one actor in the cast barely mentioned was Tom Sturridge. Sturridge’s performance turns out to be the best reason to see the first Broadway production of Lyle Kessler’s 30-year-old play about the confrontation between two brothers and a fatherly Chicago gangster.

Orphans Gerald Schoenfeld TheatreSturridge plays Phillip, the younger brother of Treat (Ben Foster), orphans who live in a run-down row house in North Philadelphia. Treat is a violent petty criminal who supports the two of them by holding up people with a switchblade. Phillip never leaves the house, because Treat has told him that his allergies will kick in and he’ll die. In truth, Treat is keeping Phillip as little more than his prisoner.

Phillip spends his day hiding in the closet with their dead mother’s clothing, or watching television and memorizing the brand name products, or looking out the window at passersby. When the play begins, we see him in the darkened living room, leaping from couch to stairs to ledge like a cat. When Treat comes home after a day of petty thievery, Phillip mimics the people he’s seen out the window, imitating the way they stride or stroll or hop quickly on tip-toe like a cartoon character.

It is a masterful physical performance – funny and touching, and slightly reminiscent of Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” – mentally incapacitated, but more open than the average person to the everyday wonders of the world. Phillip repeats words like “bouillabaisse” as if he’s tasting the word, not just the soup.

One day, Treat brings home Harold, an older drunk man (Baldwin), who wears expensive clothing and carries an executive briefcase. It is Treat’s idea that he has kidnapped Harold, and will hold him for ransom, and so he ties him up. As it turns out, Harold is a gangster on the lam in Philadelphia, and he is actually the one in control.

Orphans Gerald Schoenfeld TheatreA play that seems derived in equal parts from Sam Shepard’s violent Western-tinged dramas and Harold Pinter’s absurdist exercises in role reversal, “Orphans” ran for eight months Off-Broadway in 1985 after productions in L.A. and Chicago. It was then made into a 1987 movie starring Albert Finney and Matthew Modine. It continues to be performed theatrically with some frequency.  It is a slight play, most charitably seen as a parable. It depends for its power on the intensity of the three performances.

There is nothing outright wrong with the acting by Alec Baldwin or Ben Foster, but neither turn in must-see portrayals.  Baldwin handles his character’s comical philosophizing like a pro, a criminal Jack Donaghy (his character on “30 Rock”), although Harold could surely do with a greater sense of menace. Foster could probably do with a little less menace, or at least more variations of it.  As Russell, Claire’s art-school classmate in “Six Feet Under,” Foster had a role that allowed a range of disturbing behavior. Foster’s Treat hides his hurts by playing the bully with little nuance.  This is sometimes funny, more often too obvious. It is only in the second act when the circumstances change, and especially events expose Treat’s vulnerability, that Foster’s characterization becomes more varied and interesting, even moving. It’s not Foster’s fault that I several times started picturing what it would have been like for Shia LaBeouf to have played Treat in “Orphans.” I concluded it would probably not have made much difference, except that there might have been more adolescent girls in the audience.


Gerald Schoenfeld Theater

By Lyle  Kessler

Directed by Daniel Sullivan, scenic design by John Lee Beatty, costume design by Jess Goldstein, lighting design by Pat Collins, sound design by Peter Fitzgerald

Cast: Alec Baldwin, Tom Sturridge, Ben Foster

Running time: One hour and 50 minutes, which includes a 15-minute intermission

Tickets: $67.00 – $132.00

Orphans is scheduled to run through June 30, 2013


Orphans Ticket Giveaway Contest

Win two tickets to see Orphans, starring Alec Baldwin, Ben Foster and Ben Sturridge

Win two tickets to see Orphans, starring Alec Baldwin, Ben Foster and Ben Sturridge

Update: The contest has now closed. The winner of the random drawing is Margarette Connor (maggiec)

Ticket Giveaway: Win two tickets to see “Orphans,” the play by Lyle Kessler that stars Alec Baldwin, Ben Foster and Tom Sturridge. It tells the story of two orphaned brothers living a rough life in North Philadelphia when they decide to kidnap a notorious Chicago gangster – with unexpected results. The revival is directed by Daniel Sullivan (Glengarry Glen Ross)

“Orphans” began performances March 26th, and opens on April 18th. It is scheduled to run through June 30th at Broadway’s Gerald Schoenfeld Theater.

To enter the contest, answer either of these two question:


1. What is your favorite stage show involving crimes and criminals? Describe the show and explain why it’s your favorite.  


2. What is your favorite performance by any of the three actors in “Orphans’ – Alec Baldwin, Ben Foster or Tom Sturridge – and why?


1. Please put your answer in the comments at the bottom of this blog post, because the winner will be chosen through based on the order of your reply, not its content.

But you must answer the one of the two questions, fully (not just the title of your favorite show or role) or your entry will not be approved for submission.

2. Please include in your answer your Twitter name and follow my Twitter feed at @NewYorkTheater so that I can send you a direct message. (If you don’t have a Twitter name, create one. It’s free.)

3. This contest ends Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at midnight Eastern Time, and I will make the drawing no later than noon the next day. You must respond to my direct message on Twitter within 24 hours or I will choose another winner.

(The tickets are for a performance on Tuesday, Wednesday or  Thursday through 4/23, except for 4/18 which is the opening. You have to be in New York City and able to attend one of the designated performances.)

Update: Please follow the instructions above carefully. If you do not include your Twitter name on your post, for example, you are ineligible for the prize.  And only one comment per contestant.

Hollywood Broadway Debuts: Shia LaBeouf Shooed From, Tom Hanks Lured To, Robert DeNiro Promised For, The Great White Way.

top to bottom: Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hanks, Robert DeNiro, Jane Lynch: Broadway DebutsIs Shia LaBeouf’s sudden departure from what would have been his Broadway debut a boost for Broadway in what would normally be a fallow February?  But this week actually has been fertile for theater folk – and, fittingly, considering this is Oscar week, much of it can be fit with Hollywood, such as the announcements that Les Miserables will return to Broadway, and the report that Robert DeNiro may be making his Broadway debut — as a director of a Broadway musical! Tom Hanks is talking about not just his Broadway debut, but his first stage role since 1981.

Also making her Broadway debut: Jane Lynch of Glee.

Speaking of TV: the auxiliary entertainment industry that has built up around Smash. And: What IS a dramaturg, and why are they always ridiculed on television?

The Week in New York Theater

Monday, February 18, 2013

New Memoirs

Rita Moreno,	Sachi Parker, Clive Davis

  1. Rita Moreno reveals that she was impregnated by Marlon Brando, who insisted she have an abortion. She also dated Elvis
  2. Sachi Parker, only child of Shirley MacLaine, writes in “Lucky Me” how Mom sabotaged her daughter’s acting career
  3. In The Soundtrack of My Life, Clive Davis writes he’s bisexual and currently living with a man. He details his efforts to get Whitney Houston off drugs.

Oddly, Clive Davis tells USA Today he plans to ask Anne Hathaway & Colin Firth to star in his planned 2014 Broadway revival of My Fair Lady

(Shouldn’t he tell the press AFTER he asks them?)

Sex in movies? Often great. Sex on Girls on HBO? Immersive. Sex on stage? Rarely works, says Chicago Tribune drama critic Chris Jones

Michael Urie (Ugly Betty, the canceled “Partners”) stars in Rattlestick Playwright’s Theater’s” Buyer and Cellar,” about a struggling actor who bonds with a Streisand-like superstar while cataloguing her collection. Opens April 3.

Tina Landau (‏‪@TinaLandau, director of “Old Hats” at the Signature Theater ): Directing in previews is a lot about making lists. I need lists. I love lists. Lists save me.


Yes, it’s happening; Les Misérables is returning to Broadway, its third run, set to open in March of 2014, producer Cameron Mackintosh announces

Boosted by ‪the Les Miz film, the Les Miz U.S. stage tour is doing $1 million a week. That’s what’ll be coming to Broadway

Should anybody from the ‪#LesMiz film do the Broadway version next year?

LesMizSamanthaBarksAaronTveitAndrew Marcinak (‏‪@Droid_boy): Hands down Samantha Barks and Aaron Tveit
Laura (@LauraBethD): Samantha Barks & Aaron Tveit!

Suzanne Du Charme (@SuzanneDuCharme): Hugh Jackman, Colm Wilkinson, some if the townspeople who already work in theatre
Kerri (what_a_dream) I say none of the leads in the Les Mis movie should be in the broadway production but the secondary cast should be

Andy Scott ‏‪@AndyDirects Perhaps Tom Hooper can also direct it so that there is nothing but religious symbols and water onstage

Jonathan Mandell (@NewYorkTheater) You forgot the giant noses

ShkBoom Records (@ShKBoom) Big news! We’re recording Pasek and Paul’s DOGFIGHT  with Lindsay Mendez and Derek Klena and the rest of the Second Stage Theater cast!

Adele Rufus Gaga

Which singer/songwriters do people most want to see writing for Broadway? Adele, Rufus Wainwright and Lady Gaga, according to the contest entries for tickets to “Kinky Boots,” Cyndi Lauper’s Broadway songwriting debut.

Ann window display

The window display at the Drama Book Shop for “Ann,” the solo show about the late Governor Ann Richards, starring Holland Taylor

(After first preview of “Ann”)


SmashPataphysicalSciMemorable lines
Tom (Christian Borle): “Art without torture. I don’t think it’s possible”

Dan Mason ‏‪(@djdan1033): Very true. Ask most of us who watch the show every week.

Producer Eileen (Anjelica Huston): He’s a professional dramaturg.
Tom: A dramaturg, are you joking?
Librettist Julia (Debra Messing): Laughs.
Eileen: It’s a common practice these days.

Peter the dramaturg (Daniel Sunjata): Dramaturgs are like dentists;no one wants to see them but you’re glad you went once the pain wears off”

(Why do dramaturgs get so little respect?)

Julie Felise Dubiner ‏‪(@jfdubiner): Too many of us expect it instead of earning it.

What IS a dramaturg?

A dramaturg is a murderer in “Icarus,” the episode of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” in which everybody thinks Cynthia Nixon playing a Julie Taymor-like figure was the perpetrator.  A dramaturg is a handsome man who lives in a very expensive New York apartment but who hurts the now-scarfless Debra Messing’s feelings in “The Dramaturg,” the latest episode of “Smash….But what is a dramaturg on stage rather than on the small screen? Answer

Broadway Abridged Smash

Smash – theater bloggers weigh in, from Broadway Abridge’s condensed episode scripts to the Smash Reality Index

Will we have “Smash” to kick around any longer? Whatever else the backstage Broadway TV show has been, it’s been an inspiration for many in the theater community – creating what you could almost call a subsidiary entertainment industry


Shia LaBeouf, who was to make his Broadway debut, has departed “Orphans,” the production announces, “due to creative differences.” No more details at the moment.

The raved-about American Repertory Theater’s production of Glass Menagerie wit Cherry Jones, Zachary Quinto, and Celia Keenan-Bolger is in talks to open on Broadway.

Robert DeNiro plans to direct a Bway musical of Chazz Palminteri’s  A Bronx Tale. So claims ‪Showbiz411

Jane Lynch will replace Katie Finneran as Miss Hannigan in ‪”Annie” starting May 16


FREE concert March 28 with the casts of Chicago, Phantom of the Opera, Avenue Q and others to celebrate the landmarking status given to Town Hall.  Tickets distributed first come, first served starting at noon on March 25 at the box office

Shia LaBeouf replaced by Ben Foster in Orphans

Shia LaBeouf replaced by Ben Foster in Orphans

On Twitter, Shia LaBeouf (‪@thecampaignbook) publishes e-mails that imply that his “creative differences” were with Alec Baldwin

Ben Foster will replace Shia LaBeouf

The Rascals: Once Upon a Dream,new concert written by Steven Van Zandt (E-Street Band,Sopranos) Ap 15-May 5 Bway’s Richard Rodgers

Terrific project by ‏ the New York Philharmonic to put its 170 years of history online. Check out its archives 


Shia LaBeouf Fired, NOT a feud with Alec Baldwin , says Michael Riedel in the New York Post

Last year’s Kennedy Center revue, “First You Dream,” renamed “Kander and Ebb’s Sing Happy,” is reportedly aiming for Broadway this Fall. Cast unclear.

It didn’t catch on on Broadway, but Kander & Ebb’s Scottsboro Boys will open at UK’s Young Vic,Susan Stroman director/choreographer again

Daughter of All That Jazz screenwriter recalls going to the Oscar ceremony without him. (He had died) 

Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kendrick to to star in film of Jason Brown’s musical about a frayed marriage, “The Last Five Years”


I reach 10,000 Twitter followers — and how I built that following

Joyce Carol Oates  (@JoyceCarolOates): Twitter makes of loneliness something rich & unexpected.But you must choose your travel-companions with care.

Tina Packer in Women of Will (Shakespeare)

Tina Packer in Women of Will (Shakespeare)

My review of Women of Will

Consider Marina – saved by pirates, who then sell her into a brothel, “but she had such a healing spirit that she convinced every man not to have sex with her,” Tina Packer says to us, greatly amused, near the end of “Women of Will,” a fascinating if flawed work of theater about Shakespeare’s female characters, created and performed by a woman who has been studying them for decades – and is, incredibly, making her New York stage debut.

Full review of Women of Will


Matt Cavenaugh made his Broadway debut in "Urban Cowboy" shortly after graduating college

Matt Cavenaugh made his Broadway debut in “Urban Cowboy” shortly after graduating college

New and Once-New Faces of Broadway ‪

Valisia LeKae is portraying Diana Ross this season in "Motown The Musical"

Valisia LeKae is portraying Diana Ross this season in “Motown The Musical”

The Times as usual features fresh faces of Broadway in its Spring preview. This year that includes performers in “The Nance,” “Pippin,”  “Motown The Musical,” “Kinky Boots” and  “The Flick”

But what has happened to the new faces of a decade ago. Good things, as it turns out. I catch up on actors Anthony Mackie and Matt Cavenaugh,  director Kenny Leon and playwright Kate Fodor.


Tom Hanks talks about his Broadway debut in “Lucky Guy” which begins previews on March 1 and opens on April 1:

“I still feel sometimes that I’d like to be as good as so-and-so actor…I see some other actors’ work, and I think I’ll never get there. I wish I could.”

Tom Hanks was last on stage in 1981, and never on Broadway.

“I lived around the corner from Broadway, but I couldn’t even get arrested,” he recalled. “I didn’t know how to dance, I hadn’t taken a voice lesson, and I wasn’t feeling confident.”

He is starring as the late newspaper columnist Mike McAlary, in a play written by Nora Ephron, who died while she was writing it.
“We’re just resorting to imagining the headlines for bad reviews — ‘Lucky Guy, Unlucky Audience!’ ‘Yucky Guy!’ ”

Shia LaBeouf Replaced by Ben Foster in Broadway’s Orphans after ‘creative differences’ with Alec Baldwin

Shia LaBeouf replaced by Ben Foster in Orphans

Shia LaBeouf replaced by Ben Foster in Orphans

Shia LaBeouf, the movie star (“Transformers”) who was to make his Broadway debut, has left Orphans, the three-character play co- starring Alec Baldwin and Tom Sturridge which was to start previews on March 19 and open April 7 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.

Update February 21: Ben Foster will replace Shia LaBeouf in the role of Treat. Foster, 32, best-known (at least by me) as Claire’s sexually-ambiguous classmate and boyfriend Russell in “Six Feet Under,” will be making his Broadway debut. He reportedly has never done a professional stage play.

Shia LaBoeuf has left "Orphans" which was to being previews in four weeks. They'll have to take down or modify this marquee

Shia LaBoeuf has left “Orphans” which was to being previews in four weeks. They’ll have to take down or modify this marquee

The show’s official announcement: “Due to creative differences, the producers of Orphans and Shia LaBeouf will be parting ways, and he will not be continuing with the production. An announcement on the replacement for the role of ‘Treat’ will be made shortly.”

LaBeouf, 26, was to star as the older of two brothers who kidnaps an older man (Alec Baldwin). “Orphans,” by Lyle Kessler, debuted in 1983 and was made into a movie in 1987 starring Albert Finney, Matthew Modine and Kevin Anderson.

There are more questions here than answers yet. Did he quit? Was he fired? Was it  mutual? Was it “amicable”? (not possible) What are “creative differences” and are they limited only to performers?


Shia LaBeouf on his official Twitter account, @thecampaignbook, more or less explains what the problem was. He did not get along with Alec Baldwin.

This is most obvious from the e-mail he reproduces from “Dan” –obviously Orphans director Daniel Sullivan addressed to LaBeouf:

“I’m too old for disagreeable situations. You’re one hell of a great actor. Alec is who he is. You are who you are. You two are incompatible. I should have known it.

This one will haunt me. You tried to warn me. You said you were a different breed. I didn’t get it.”

The other is LaBeouf’s e-mail to Alec Baldwin, which is less direct but eventually gets to the point (I’ve left out a lot in the middle):

“My Dad was a drug dealer. He was a shit human. But he was a man.He taught me how to be a man. What I know of a men Alec is—

A man is good at his job. Not his work, not his avocation, not his hobby. Not his career. Hs job.

A man can look you up and down and figure some things out. Before you say a word, he makes you. From your suitcase, from your watch, your posture.

A man owns up. That’s why Mark McGwire is not a man. A man grasps his mistakes. He lays claim to who he is, and what he was, whether he likes them or not.

…He can apologize, even if it’s sometimes just to put an end to the bickering.

Alec, I’m sorry for my part of a dis-agreeable situation.”