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The Price on Broadway With Danny DeVito: Pics, Review

Danny DeVito, making his Broadway debut, gets the best deal out of The Price. Arthur Miller is not a playwright known for comically colorful characters, yet here’s DeVito as Gregory Solomon, a Jewish acrobat turned 89-year-old used furniture dealer who “smoked all my life, I drinked, and I loved every woman who would let me.”

DeVito’s character is the most enjoyable but not a central one in Miller’s sober family drama, now getting its fifth production on Broadway, in a cast that also includes Mark Ruffalo, Jessica Hecht and Tony Shalhoub. If none are at their absolute best here, that only means that all of them at one time or another have given performances that have left me in awe.In the play — which is also not Miller’s absolute best — Shalhoub and Mark Ruffalo are estranged brothers who meet in their childhood home years after their parents’ death in order to sell off their old possessions before the building is torn down. The meeting turns into a confrontation, with secrets revealed, the past unearthed. The price is not just what Solomon will give them for the furniture but what the characters have paid for past choices and lost chances.

Full review at D.C. Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Joan Marcus to see it enlarged.

 

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Fiddler on the Roof Review: Danny Burstein in Broadway Revival

Fiddler on the Roof Broadway Theatre •DANNY BURSTEIN DANNY BURSTEIN (Tevye) Danny is a 5-time Tony Award nominee whose 15 Broadway credits include: Cabaret (Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award nominations); The Snow Geese; Golden Boy (2013 Tony and Outer Critics Circle nominations); Follies (2012 Tony, Astaire & Grammy Award nominations; Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards); Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown; South Pacific (Tony and Drama Desk nominations, Outer Critics Circle Award); The Drowsy Chaperone (Tony and Ovation Award nominations); Saint Joan; The Seagull; Three Men on a Horse; A Little Hotel on the Side; The Flowering Peach; A Class Act; Titanic and Company. Off-Broadway credits include: Talley’s Folly (Lucille Lortel & Drama League nominations); Mrs. Farnsworth; Psych; All in the Timing; Merrily We Roll Along; Weird Romance and I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. Film/TV includes: The Family Fang (directed by Jason Bateman); Blackhat (directed by Michael Mann); Lolly Steinman on “Boardwalk Empire” (directed by Martin Scorsese); “Louie;” Transamerica; “Absolutely Fabulous;” “Ed;” all the “Law & Order” series; “Hope & Faith;” Deception; Affluenza; American Milkshake; Nor’easter; Construction; Liv and Trust, Greed, Bullets & Bourbon. He recently made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Frosch in the Jeremy Sams/Douglas Carter Beane production of Die Fledermaus. JESSICA HECHT ALIX KOREY ADAM DANNHEISSER ADAM KANTOR KARL KENZLER SAMANTHA MASSELL MELANIE MOORE NICK REHBERGER ALEXANDRA SILBER GEORGE PSOMAS JULIE BENKO ERIC BOURNE AUSTIN GOODWIN JACOB GUZMAN REED LUPLAU BRANDT MARTINEZ SARAH PARKER JONATHAN ROYSE WINDHAM JENNY ROSE BAKER HAYLEY FEINSTEIN BEN RAPPAPORT MICHAEL C. BERNARDI ADAM GRUPPER MITCH GREENBERG JEFFREY SCHECTER “SHECKY” JESSE KOVARSKY ERIC BOURNE STEPHEN CARRASCO ERIC CHAMBLISS LORI WILNER JESSICA VOSK JENNIFER ZETLAN TESS PRIMACK MARLA PHELAN MATT MOISEY SILVIA VRSKOVA AARON YOUNG Production Credits: Bartlett Sher (director) Jerome Robbins (original choreography) Hofesh Shechter (additional choreography) Michael Yeargan (scenic design) Catherine Zuber (costume design) Donald Holder (lighting design) Scott Lehrer (sound design) Ted Sperling (music director) Other Credits: Lyrics by: Sheldon Harnick Music by: Jerry Bock Book by Joseph Stein

Tevye is back on Broadway, this time with Danny Burstein as the Russian Jewish milkman who tries to uphold tradition. “Fiddler on the Roof” has become a tradition in its own right. The production that’s just opened is the sixth on Broadway, but that doesn’t get at what a world-wide phenomenon this show has become over the past half century – 15 versions of it have been mounted in Finland, more than 1,300 in Japan, according to one of the two books published last year to coincide with its 50th anniversary. The Library of America judged it one of the greatest American musicals in the Golden Age of Broadway. More than a billion people reportedly have seen the 1971 movie; the stage show is a staple of schools throughout America; its strikingly memorable songs  — among them “To Life (L’Chaim!),” “If I Were A Rich Man,””Sunrise Sunset,””Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” and “Tradition,” —  have helped generations of wedding and bar mitzvah musicians pay for their children’s college education.

Such a show will always draw an audience, and the new revival certainly has its rewards. Chief among them is Burstein, who portrays Tevye as warmhearted, big and cuddly – a mensch, in the words of his fellow villagers in the fictional shtetl of Anatevka, but also more varied and with less shtick than some past Tevyes. A 23-piece orchestra, unusually large for Broadway (The Color Purple has just seven musicians in its band), creates lush accompaniment for the singing. Both Catherine Zuber’s costumes and Donald Holder’s lighting are up to their usual standards of beauty in service of the story; the few interludes of dancing are fun.  And yet, the biggest surprise of a production directed by Bartlett Sher, who did such wonders helming the Lincoln Center revival of The King and I and, before that, of South Pacific, is how ultimately unexceptional his “Fiddler on the Roof” feels. As those in Anatevka might put it: This, you couldn’t make more thrilling?

Sher does add touches in an apparent attempt to make the show more contemporary.  He tacks on short silent scenes at the beginning and end of the show, in which Burstein, dressed in a modern puffy red parka, visits Anatevka, supposedly reading from a guidebook, and then joins the line of refugees. Theatergoers have reportedly seen this framing device as a nod to the present-day global refugee crisis. The show doesn’t need this extra moment for us to make the connection – the context of oppression is what has helped make this musical appealing to people around the world – but there’s no harm in it. Indeed, Sher’s production may be best in the serious scenes (albeit few and brief) where the outside (gentile) world intrudes.

Given the pressures of this dangerous world, and the challenges of life in the shtetl, Jessica Hecht’s interpretation of Tevye’s wife Golde as worn out is certainly justifiable, at least historically. But it’s not exactly invigorating entertainment, especially since her singing voice also lacks the zest we have come to expect. At least Hecht, a terrific actress (whom I loved in such shows as Stage Kiss and The Assembled Parties) has clearly put some thought into her characterization. Adam Kantor portrays the timid tailor Motel, the first of the three increasingly unsuitable suitors for Tevye’s three eldest daughters (unsuitable, that is, in Tevye’s eyes.) In his Playbill Who’s Who, Kantor tells us that he made his theatrical debut in sixth grade in his middle school’s Fiddler; one wonders if that production continues to influence him unduly: He indicates the character’s skittishness by cartoon fidgeting and even ducking under a wagon. Once Motel finds his courage, and Kantor his mellifluous voice (in his glorious rendition of “Miracle of Miracles”), the performer redeems himself and the character gains a semblance of credibility. If no other performances seem as obviously wrong-headed, none stand out as especially delightful. I wondered during the show whether the cast had been under-rehearsed, and realized later that it must be the director’s choice to tone down the characters joie de vivre, perhaps in the name of being more realisticBut it is their high spirits in the face of hardship that seems to me central to the musical’s appeal.

Marc Chagall's The Fiddler

Marc Chagall’s The Fiddler

The sets are mostly flimsy-looking shacks, which are lifted into the air — and seemed designed for ease of handling in a road company tour; this made me wonder briefly whether the show was under-capitalized. In fairness, this design scheme was most likely an aesthetic choice, to mimic the flavor of Marc Chagall’s painting The Fiddler, which gave the musical its title; even the fiddler in this production at one point flies in the air. This is again, perhaps a way to underscore how rootless Tevye and the rest of the villagers, how likely to disappear – and again, an embellishment not needed, given the clear message from the script.

Tevye isn’t able to save the residents of Anatevya, despite his friendship with the Russian constable, but Danny Burstein does make this “Fiddler on the Roof” worth seeing.

Click on any photograph by Joan Marcus to see it enlarged.

Fiddler on the Roof

at Broadway Theater

Book by Joseph Stein, music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick.
Directed by Bartlett Sher
Choreography is by Hofesh Shechter, inspired by the original choreography of Jerome Robbins. The 23-piece orchestra is led by music director Ted Sperling.
scenic design by Michael Yeargan, costume design by Catherine Zuber, lighting design by Donald Holder and sound design by Scott Lehrer
Cast: Danny Burstein as Tevye, Jessica Hecht as Golde, Jenny Rose Baker as Shprintze, Michael C. Bernardi as Mordcha, Adam Dannheisser as Lazar Wolf, Hayley Feinstein as Bielke, Mitch Greenberg as Yussel and the Beggar, Adam Grupper as the Rabbi, Adam Kantor as Motel, Karl Kenzler as the Constable, Alix Korey as Yente, Jesse Kovarsky as The Fiddler, Samantha Massell as Hodel, Melanie Moore as Chava, George Psomas as Avram, Ben Rappaport as Perchik, Nick Rehberger as Fyedka, Jeffrey Schecter as Mendel, Alexandra Silber as Tzeitel, Jessica Vosk as Fruma-Sarah, Lori Wilner as Grandma Tzeitel, Aaron Young as Sasha, and Jennifer Zetlan as Shaindel. The ensemble features: Julie Benko, Eric Bourne, Stephen Carrasco, Eric Chambliss, Austin Goodwin, Jacob Guzman, Reed Luplau, Brandt Martinez, Matt Moisey, Sarah Parker, Marla Phelan, Tess Primack, Silvia Vrskova, and Jonathan Royse Windham.

Running time: three hours, including one intermission.

Tickets: $35.00 – $167.00

Bryan Cranston debuts. Daniel Radcliffe returns. King Kong retreats. Week in New York Theater

Week in Theater March 9Bryan Cranston made his Broadway debut in All The Way, about LBJ, one of five shows I reviewed this week in a season that’s heating up.  Fiddler on the Roof will play once more on Broadway, as will On The Town.

Not only has King Kong disappeared; so has the Foxwoods where it was scheduled to be presented.

There is still time to enter the contest for a pair of free tickets to see Daniel Radcliffe in his third Broadway show, The Cripple of Inishmaan. Details here

Week in New York Theater

Monday, March 3, 2014

Top 10 Idina Menzel

Top 10 ways to mispronounce Idina Menzel

Co-creator ‪Kate Wetherhead talks about Submissions Only web series about theater.

Stage Kiss 1

My review of Stage Kiss

By the end of Stage Kiss, the man and the woman have kissed 288 times. This is according to the woman’s husband, who is a banker and loves numbers, and has not been in on the kissing, in Sarah Ruhl’s amusing, convoluted play – which is anything but by the numbers, managing to combine broad slapstick,  melodrama, mock-kitchen sink realism, a loving backstage farce, and a romantic comedy with actual insights into love.

Full review of Stage Kiss

4

Cole Horibe as Bruce Lee

Cole Horibe as Bruce Lee

Kung Fu at ‪Signature has been extended to April 6.

Emerging women playwrights: It’s submission time for ATCA’s $10K Francesca Primus Prize

Ok this is strange: ‪Randi Zuckerberg (Mark’s sis) makes her Broadway debut as Regina March 14-28 in ‪Rock Of Ages

His annual income is $30K. The theater’s is $3 million. Yet it refused to pay ‪Mike Lew for his play 

1786387_ET_Oscars_RCG_36Cate Blanchett is only the latest Oscar winner to thank a THEATER (or be at a theater and unable to accept) ‪

Satchmo_at_Waldorftw

My review of Satchmo at the Waldorf Review

“Hello, Dolly is a piece of shit.”

This is the voice of Louis Armstrong, after the final concert of his life, as depicted in Terry Teachout’s first play, “Satchmo at the Waldorf,” a dramatic imagining of the private Pops, starring the extraordinary actor John Douglas Thompson. It is four months before his death in 1971, and Armstrong — who overcame poverty, outcast status and racism to become one of the most popular entertainers in the world — reaches first for the oxygen canister on the couch of his dressing room, taking a deep breath. Then he reaches for his tape recorder.

Full review of Satchmo at the Waldorf

5

Here Lies Love 5

Here Lies Love returns to ‪The Public Theater April 14; opens May 1

AudraMcDonaldLadyDayHave you ever wanted to perform with Audra McDonald? Well, you can’t, but your dog can. ‪Lady Day at the Emerson Bar and Grill is looking to cast small dog
Email a pic of your dog and describe it to LadyDayDogAuditions@gmail.com by 10 am on Monday, March 10. “Final callbacks” Tuesday

Playwrights are in demand…on TV. And they want diversity.

Rapper ‪Common wants to star in The Great White Hope, the boxing play which made James Earl Jones a star. Unlikely for Broadway, says Michael Riedel of the New York Post.

A negative review feels like being the child in Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Few of us remember how the tale ends: The child cries out that the emperor is naked, which the emperor knows, but the procession continues anyway– Francine Prose

Will Steven Spielberg remake West Side Story?

AandC02

My review of Antony and Cleopatra

“Antony and Cleopatra,”which is being given a colorful and ambitiously reworked production at the Public Theater, has a tragic/romantic ending reminiscent of “Romeo and Juliet,” and it features the same charismatic figure as the “lend me your ears” orator from “Julius Caesar.” So why has there been no production of this particular play by Shakespeare on Broadway since 1952?

The answer seems clear: Despite two intriguing central characters and some choice poetry, this is not one of the Bard’s crowd pleasers. …Director and “editor” Tarell McCraney transposes the action from Ancient Egypt and Rome, to Haiti in the 18th century (then called  Saint-Domingue)  on the eve of its revolution from Napoleonic France. One knows of this change from the scenery, the costumes, the songs, the dancing, the allusions to Voodoo, and the Creole accents…. but not the text:  The characters still talk of “Rome” and “Egypt.”

Full review of Antony and Cleopatra

6

Three pieces of big news at once:

1. The Foxwoods has been renamed The Lyric.

2. On The Town revival will open there in Oct. 2014.

3. King Kong is no longer scheduled for The Lyric.

“Fiddler on the Roof,” one of the most frequently revived musicals on Broadway, will have its fifth revival in the fall of 2015 under the direction of the Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher (South Pacific), possibly starring Danny Burstein. (They’re talking.)

Hamilton, written and starring Lin Manuel Miranda, will premiere in January, 2015, directed by Thomas Kail (same team as In The Heights), at the Public Theater.

Women directors need to find the right language, neither apologetic nor male-like bullying,says Jess Smith ‪

Page to stage doesn’t have to mean better to worse. Recent adaptations”leave the original book far behind.” ‪

Stage Kiss by Sarah Ruhl at ‪Playwrights Horizons has been extended until April 6th.

DeathofBessieSmith How a Non-Political Play Can Create Political Theater My article for Howlround

Can Edward Albee save the Interfaith Medical Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant? Can theater change the world? Those are the questions I asked after I attended an early performance of Albee’s “The Death of Bessie Smith” in its first New York production in 46 years. Albee gave permission to a two-year-old theater company called New Brooklyn, which wanted to put on the play in a room off the hospital’s first floor reception area in order to help save the hospital from closing. (Includes list of American plays that have made a measurable difference.)

LBJ  (Cranston) with Hubert Humphrey (Robert Petkoff)

LBJ (Cranston) with Hubert Humphrey (Robert Petkoff)

My review of All The Way

“Everybody wants power; and if they say they don’t, they’re lying,” Bryan Cranston snarls in “All The Way,” Robert Schenkkan’s play about President Lyndon Baines Johnson now opened on Broadway. “But everybody thinks it ought to be given out free of charge, like Mardi Gras beads, especially to them, because, of course, they’re going to do Good with it. Nothing comes free. Nothing. Not even Good. Especially not Good.”

It’s something that Walter White from “Breaking Bad” might say. But of course, anything Bryan Cranston says for a while will sound like something that his character Walter White might say, to a public who just spent five years watching with fascination as he morphed from a mild-mannered chemistry teacher with cancer into a vicious drug kingpin. Thanks to his role in that television show, which ended in September, Cranston himself now has power — star power. And, one can argue persuasively, he is using his star power for Good, debuting on Broadway in what is essentially a staged lesson in history and politics.

And yes, Good doesn’t come free.  Without Cranston, it seems unlikely that Broadway theatergoers would be paying a top ticket price of $225 to sit through three hours of historical reenactments, with 20 actors portraying more than 50 characters in some of the crises and conflicts in the first 11 months of LBJ’s presidency.

Full review of All The Way

7

Body mikes,routine on Broadway for 40 years, may end. The FCC has been selling off the spectrum to tech firms. ‪Audences might have to get used to area mikes agin (This fact is buried in a profile of long-time Broadway sound designer Abe Jacob)

Cruise line theater a growing industry. One line alone hires 60 casts a year.They don’t WANT the stage to rock ‪

artistskickedout

NYC artists, kicked out by high rents, used to be able to move to new un-gentrified neighborhoods. No longer: None left. ‪

Playwright ‪Meron Langsner gives a lesson to fellow playwrights and dramaturgs in fightaturgy – stage violence ‪

8

The Simpsons

Watch live streaming video from newplay at livestream.com

9

Kelli O'Hara and Steven Pasquale

Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale

My review of The Bridges of Madison County

“If you went away for a week and I spent the whole time in bed with a
photographer, would you be mad?” nosy neighbor Marge asks her husband Charlie in “The Bridges of Madison County,” the new lush and lovely Broadway musical.

“You’d have your reasons, I
guess,” Charlie eventually answers, not looking up from his paper. “I mean, look at me.”

Marge and Charlie are a terrific addition to the story of the affair between Francesca, an Italian-born Iowa farm wife, and world-traveling National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid — not least because of the performers Cass Morgan and Michael S. Martin, with their perfect comic timing and strong voices full of feeling. Marge’s question and Charlie’s answer seem the musical’s acknowledgement that its story, in bold outline, is a tad…silly….

it improbably strikes gold…If you’re going to do a big Broadway musical about a four-day adulterous affair that occurred 50 years ago, this is the way to do it.

Full review of The Bridges of Madison County

Off-Broadway Spring 2014 Guide

Kung Fu, a new play by David Henry Hwang about Bruce Lee, at Signature Theater

Kung Fu, a new play by David Henry Hwang about Bruce Lee, at Signature Theater

Off Broadway this season, David Henry Hwang is telling the story of Bruce Lee in Kung Fu. Frank Langella plays King Lear. Actress  Linda Lavin and playwright Nicky Silver pair up again, as they did hilariously in The Lyons, for a new comedy, Too Much Sun.  Caryl Churchill offers 57 scenes in 110 minutes with 16 actors playing more than 100 characters in Love and Information, her play critiquing modern society’s information overload.

Starring Off-Broadway Spring 2014: (left to right, top to bottom) Jessica Hecht, Cherry Jones, Linda Lavin, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Nina Arianda, Charles Busch

Starring Off-Broadway Spring 2014: (left to right, top to bottom) Jessica Hecht (Stage Kiss), Cherry Jones (When We Were Young And Afraid), Linda Lavin (Too Much Sun), Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Village Bike), Nina Arianda (Tales from Red Vienna), Charles Busch (The Tribute Artist)

Churchill’s play is especially apt for Off-Broadway. Every season, there’s always an overload of choices Off-Broadway. In the next few months, we can choose between musicals about middle-aged sex and about climate change, plays about war and a family falling apart and about a Satanic sock puppet, new works of theater starring Cherry Jones, Jessica Hecht, Nina Arianda, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Charles Busch, two new plays by the last two recipients of the Pulitzer Prize in Drama, Quiara Alegría Hudes and Ayad Akhtar.

Are there must-sees? I’ll tell you — once I see them.

Broadway is much easier – 40 theaters, about 40 new shows a year with clear-cut opening dates, mostly in November and April, striking logos, high-powered publicists and marketers, and usually a familiar or a familiar story, or both.

Off-Broadway is more chaotic, more spread out, more numerous (some 200 theaters/theater companies, depending on how you count) less publicized – and, most serious theatergoers will tell you,  Off Broadway has far richer and more diverse offerings.It is also less expensive. (48 shows Off-Broadway will charge just $20 from January 21 to February 9 as part of the annual 20at20 promotion.)

One thing Off-Broadway offers that Broadway does not* are residential theaters that nurture theater artists and new work. The best way I can think of to preview shows opening Off-Broadway this season is to present the offerings within each of these theaters, starting with the ones I like the most, have the best track record lately, and treat theatergoers well. One advantage of these theaters is that you can become a member/subscribe.

Of course, there is never a guarantee, and some terrific shows pop up in unlikely places.

playwrights_01 PLAYWRIGHTS HORIZONS

416 W. 42nd St.

Twitter: @PHNYC

Stage Kiss

February 7 – March 23

Jessica Hecht, who created one of my favorite magical stage moments of 2013 in The Assembled Parties, stars with Dominic Fumusa in Sarah Ruehl’s new play about two actors with a history thrown together as romantic leads in a forgotten 1930s melodrama.

Your Mother’s Copy of the Kama Sutra

March 28 – May 11

In Kirk Lynn’s new play directed by Ann Kauffman, Carla agrees to marry Reggie on one condition: to break down any walls between them, they’ll reenact their individual sexual histories with one another

Fly By Night: A New Musical

May 16 – June 29

Set during the blackout of 1965, a melancholy sandwich-maker encounters two entrancing sisters in this darkly comic rock fable.

SIGNATURE

signature_01480 West 42nd Street

Twitter: @signaturetheatr

Begun with a focus on the work of a single playwright each season, Signature has expanded , thanks to its new building. And thanks to corporate underwriting, all tickets for the initial runs are $25.

Kung Fu

DavidHenryHwangFebruary 4 to March 16

Cole Horibe (So You Think You Can Dance) stars as Bruce Lee in David Henry Hwang’s new theater piece blending dance, Chinese opera, martial arts and drama to depict Lee’s journey from troubled Hong Kong youth to martial arts legend.

The Open House

February 11 – March 23

A new play by Will Eno that hints at being about a family.

Appropriate

February – March

This new play by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins focuses on family confrontation in an old Arkansas plantation after the death of the patriarch and the discovery of a gruesome relic and a surprise visitor.

THE PUBLIC THEATER

The theater had a stellar fall season, with Fun Home, The Good Person of Szechuan and the Apple Family Plays.

public_01Twitter: @PublicTheaterNY

Under The Radar

January 8-19

Taking advantage of the relatively fallow period right after the holidays, the Public has presented this festival of new, mostly experimental theater from around the world for ten years. This year’s 16 offerings include shows performed (with English super-titles) in Spanish, Japanese, Dutch (two!), French, and German, but mostly English.  Roger Guenveur Smith, who previously had a one-man show about Huey Newton, now presents Rodney King (remember: “Can we all get along?)

Antony and Cleopatra

February 18-March 17

William Shakespeare’s play edited and directed by Tarell Alvin McCraney in collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company transposes the action to 18th century Saint-Domingue on the eve of revolution.

Father Comes Home From The Wars (Parts 1, 2 and 3)

March 14-March 23

Suzan-Lori Parks presents a three-part play about a slave during the Civil War. PART 1 introduces us to Hero, a slave who must choose whether or not to join his master on the Confederate battlefield. In PART 2, a band of rebel soldiers test Hero’s loyalty as the cannons approach. PART 3 finds Hero’s loved ones anxiously awaiting his return

 A Second Chance

March 18-April 13

A musical about a recent widower and a divorcée who meet in mid-life, not trusting that they can find love again.

The Civilians’ The Great Immensity 

TheGreatImmensity1April 8-April 27, 2013

A musical about climate change might sound…well-meaning…if it were in hands other than among the most exciting theater artists in town — writer and director Steve Cosson and Michael Friedman (Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson), the leading lights of The Civilians theater company, which has a track record of socially-conscious, theatrically thrilling “investigations.” Phyllis uncovers a mysterious plot surrounding the upcoming international climate summit in Auckland. As the days count down to the Auckland Summit, Phyllis must decipher the plan and possibly stop it in time.

LINCOLN CENTER THEATER*

Claire Tow Theater is Lincoln Center’s cutting-edge venue, where tickets are routinely $20.

LincolnCenterlogoTwitter: @LCTheater

Stop Hitting Yourself

January 15 to February 23

The Austin-based theater collective Rude Mechs describes its show as part Pygmalion, part Busby Berkley, part self-help lexicon, borrowing from the plots of 1930’s musicals to dig deep into the contemporary conservative dilemma.

 The City of Conversation

April 10 – June 22

Anthony Giardina’s play, directed by Douglas Hughes, follows a political hostess from the Carter Administration up through the Obama Presidency. This is at the larger (but still Off-Broadway) Mitzi Newhouse.

AyadAkhtarThe Who and The What

May 31- July 13

Ayad Akhtar, who won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his first play Disgraced, returns to Lincoln Center’s  Clare Tow Center for this play about Zarina, an outspoken writer who clashes with her traditional father and sister over her book about women and Islam.

NEW YORK THEATER WORKSHOP

new_york_01Twitter: @NYTW79

 Love and Information

LoveandInformationlogoFebruary 4 – March 23

Caryl Churchill returns for her seventh American premiere at New York Theatre Workshop with a theatrical kaleidoscope exploring more than a hundred characters as they try to make sense of what they find out, in this play that was first produced at the Royal Court Theatre in 2012.

Cinderella/Cendrillon

Spring

A grim adult-take on the classic fairy tale, by French heater-maker Joël Pommerat

THE VINEYARD THEATER

vineyard_01108 East 15th Street

Twitter: @VineyardTheatre

Arlington

Feb 12 – March 23

Alexandra Silber

Alexandra Silber

Alexandra Silber, whom I loved in She Loves Me and may wind up being the “discovery” of the season, will star in Victor Lodato and Polly Pen’s musical about a women whose husband is away at war.

Too Much Sun

May – June

Linda Lavin stars in this play by Nicky Silver directed by Mark Brokaw (the same team that created The Lyons), about Audrey Langham – a celebrated actress – who unravels completely while preparing for a new production of Medea, and descends on her married daughter, who is not happy to see her.

ROUNDABOUT* LAURA PELS THEATER

roundabout_01111 West 46th Street

Dinner With Friends

January 17 – April 13

A revival of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Donald Margulies, directed by Pam MacKinnon (…Virginia Woolf?, Clybourne Park), about two couples drifting apart. Heather Burns,Marin Hinkle, Darren Pettie and Jeremy Shamos star.

Cutie and Bear

“available only to subscribers and donors”

Bekah Brunstetter’s new play about the relationship between a married man and a broke young woman

SECOND STAGE

second_01Twitter: @2STNYC 


The Happiest Song Plays Last  

HappiestsongsPlayLastLogoFebruary 11 – March 23

This is the concluding play in the trilogy written by Quiara Alegría Hudes, who received the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the second in the series, Water by the Spoonful. Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Happiest Song focuses again on cousins Elliot and Yaz,  who have long searched for their place in the community, and now discover the joy in coming home again and the comfort of family, both by blood and by love. It features the music of Nelson Gonzalez.

Sex With Strangers

(dates unclear)

Written by Linda Eason and directed by David Schwimmer, the play follows star sex blogger and memoirist Ethan as he tracks down his idol, the gifted but obscure novelist Olivia, discovering they both crave what the other possesses.

CSC (CLASSIC STAGE COMPANY)

csc_01136 East 13th Street

Twitter: @ClassicStage


A Man’s A Man

AMansAManlogoJanuary 10 – February 16

Justin Vivian Bond stars in this anti-just-about-everything farce by Bertolt Brecht as innocent dockworker Galy Gay in British Colonial India who is enlisted into Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, “dismantled like a car” and reassembled into the ultimate fighting machine.

The Heir Apparent

David Ives (Venus in Fur) adapts Jean-François Regnard‘s comedy about Eraste, who stands to inherit his uncle’s vast fortune, but his uncle refuses to die, and indeed plans to wed Eraste’s fiance! Eraste enlists a servant Crispin for help.

 RATTLESTICK PLAYWRIGHTS THEATER

rattle_01Address: 224 Waverly Place, although many of its shows are now presented at the Cherry Lane Theater.

Twitter: @RattlestickNY

RattlestickplaywrightsSpring2014The Correspondent

January 29 – March 16

Ken Urban’s play focuses on a husband grieving the loss of his wife who hires a dying woman to deliver a message to her in the afterlife. Soon after, sure enough, he begins receiving letters from his dead spouse.

Ode to Joy

February 12 – March 30

This play written and directed by Craig Lucas (Prelude to a KissThe Dying Gaul) tells the story of love, heartbreak, addiction, and illness through the eyes of Adele, an audacious painter and her destructive relations with Mala and Bill, her two lover

The Few

April 16 – May 31

In this play by Samuel D. Hunter (The Whale),  Bryan returns to the newspaper he started but abandoned four years ago, and things have changed.  His former lover is filled with rage, his new coworker is filled with incessant adoration, and his paper is filled with personal ads.

MCC THEATER

MCCTheaterLogoat The Lucille Lortel Theatre
121 Christopher St

Twitter: @MCCTheater

Hand to God

February 19 – March 20

In Robert Askins’ comedy, a foul-mouthed sock puppet named Tyrone teaches the students at the Christian Puppet Ministry about dark urges. This was a hit at Ensemble Studio Theatre several seasons ago.

The Village Bike

May 21 – June 28

Maggie Gyllenhaal will start in this play by Penelope Skinner, directed by Sam Gold, about a pregnant woman whose husband is ignoring her needs. So she buys a used bike that takes her further than she ever expected she’d go.

MTC THEATER* At City Center

mtc_01131 West 55th Street

Twitter: @MTC_NYC

Tales From Red Vienna

February 26 – April 27

Nina Arianda (Venus in Fur) and Kathleen Chalfant (Wit) star in this play by David Grimm, directed by Kate Whoriskey, about a woman who has lost her husband in World War I, and with him, her financial security, so she turns to the oldest profession

When We Were Young and Unafraid

May 22 – August 10

Cherry Jones stars in this play by Sarah Treem, directed by Pam MacKinnon, as a woman who has founded an underground women’s shelter in the early 1970s, with unintended consequences.

THE NEW GROUP

@TheNewGroupNYC

410 West 42nd St.

This is a theater company that resides in Theatre Row, the non-profit building that normally rents out to commercial Off-Broadway productions. Scott Elliott is the founding artistic director.

Intimacy

IntimacyJanuary 14 – March 8

Thomas Bradshaw’s new play presents three families in a well-manicured, multi-racial American town when secrets and sexual desires suddenly explode.

Annapurna

April 13 – June 1

Sharr White (The Other Place, Snow Geese has written a new play about Emma (Megan Mullally) who 20 years ago walked out on her husband, cowboy-poet Ulysses (Nick Offerman), in the middle of the night. Now, hearing he’s in dire straits, she tracks him down in the wilds of Colorado

OTHER (POTENTIAL) HIGHLIGHTS

The Tribute Artist (Primary Stages at 59E59, January 21 – March 16, 2014) In his new play, Charles Busch portrays an out-of-work female impersonator who takes on the identity of the landlady of his Greenwich Village townhouse when she dies in her sleep.

Sartre’s No Exit at the Pearl Theatre Company from Feb. 25

Between Riverside and Crazy… by Stephen Adly Guirgis is about an ex-cop and recent widower and his ex-con son’s struggle to hold on to their rent-stabilized apartment. (May, Atlantic Theater Company)

*THE ASTERISK: Off-Broadway AND Broadway

*Just to complicate matters, several of the resident theaters also present shows on Broadway –  Lincoln Center, Manhattan Theater Company (MTC), and the Roundabout Theater Company. Their Broadway offerings are listed in my Broadway Spring 2014 Preview Guide

What Is Broadway, Off-Broadway, Off-Off Broadway?

Off-Broadway theaters, by definition, have anywhere from 99 to 499 seats. If a theater has more seats than that, it’s a Broadway house. If it has fewer, it’s Off-Off Broadway.

There are some terrific Off-Off Broadway theaters, sometimes confused for Off-Broadway. These include (but are not limited to) The Flea, Labyrinth Theater, and LaMaMa ETC

NEW YORK THEATER CALENDAR BY OPENING DATES

 New York Theatre Opening Night Calendar

FOR MORE INFORMATION

For more information about Off-Broadway, go to OffBroadway.com, which is put together by The League of Off-Broadway Theatres and Producers.  This should not be confused with the Off-Broadway Alliance, which is a separate organization (though they should probably merge, no?)

Lilly Award Winners 2013: Women in the Theater Lois Smith, Paula Vogel, Jessica Hecht, etc.

The fourth annual Lilly Awards, named after playwright Lillian Hellman, honored the following women in the theater earlier this week:
actress Lois Smith
actress Jessica Hecht
sound designer Jill Du Boff
playwright Paula Vogel
playwright Laura Marks
playwright Tonya Barfield
playwright and actress Jiehae Park
theater producer Julie Crosby
director Lear De Bessonet.

Also awarded a Lilly were architect Denise Scott Brown, who in 1991 was denied a Pritzker Prize in effect because of her gender; and Emilie “Mimi” Kilgore, who in 1978 founded the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize to honor women who have written works for the theater. (Susan Smith Blackburn was Kilgore’s sister, who had died in 1977)

Smith and Kilgore won lifetime achievement awards.

Julia Jordan, Marsha Norman and Theresa Rebeck founded the Lilly Awards in 2010.

Click on any photo to see it enlarged and to read the caption

Lois Smith’s bio:
Lois Smith studied acting with Lee Strasberg at the Actors’ Studio. She is a two-time Tony-nominee for her work in Steppenwolf’s Buried Child and The Grapes of Wrath. She is an ensemble member of Steppenwolf. She made her Broadway debut in 1952 in the comedy Time out for Ginger. Oother Broadway credits include: The Iceman Cometh (1973) and Orpheus Descending (1957). In 2006, she won a Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Obie, and Lucille Lortel Awards for her performance in The Trip To Bountiful (Signature). Other recent NYC theater credits include Heartless (Sam Shepherd, Signature), After the Revolution (Amy Herzog, Playwright’s Horizons), and The Illusion (Tony Kushner, Signature). Smith made her film debut in 1955 East of Eden opposite James Dean, and appeared in such seminal films as Five Easy Pieces (National Society of Film Critics Award), Fried Green Tomatoes, The Pledge, Minority Report, Twister, How to Make an American Quilt, Fatal Attraction, Next Stop Greenwich Village, and Dead Man Walking. Her TV credits include: soap operas (Another World, Somerset, The Edge of Night, All My Children, One Life to Live), prime-time dramas (The Defenders, Dr. Kildare, Route 66, thirtysomething, The Practice, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Desperate Housewives, ER, Grey’s Anatomy, Cold Case and True Blood), and sitcoms (Just Shoot Me!and Frasier). Her career has spanned five decades working continuously in theater, film and television and is still going strong.

The Assembled Parties Review

Jessica Hecht and Judith Light in Richard Greenberg's "The Assembled Parties" on Broadway

Jessica Hecht and Judith Light in Richard Greenberg’s “The Assembled Parties” on Broadway

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All is forgiven, Richard Greenberg. The busiest playwright in New York this season bounces back from “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” with “The Assembled Parties,” an original new play that is funny, sad and lovely – and above all, superlatively acted, by an eight-member cast led by Judith Light and Jessica Hecht, portraying an extended Jewish family celebrating two Christmases 20 years apart.

The play opens on Christmas Day, 1980, when the Bascov family is gathering in their cavernous 14-room apartment on the Upper West Side, delightfully designed by Santo Loquasto as a series of rooms that rotate into view.

“This place is, like, you need a Sherpa,” says Jeff (Jeremy Shamos), a first-year law student and first-time visitor, who spends much of his time before dinner in the kitchen with Julie (Jessica Hecht), the mother of his friend Scotty. Julie was a movie star when she was a teenager but downplays her fame (“My main talent was not looking like Sandra Dee.”)   She since has settled into quiet married life with her wealthy husband Ben (Jonathan Walker) and their sons Scotty (Jake Silbermann) and little Timmy (Alex Dreier). While they wait for the rest of the dinner guests to arrive, Jeff and Julie get to know one another. Jeff was a college friend of Scotty.  Julie fondly remembers their recent graduation – “all of you- so witty, so oblique, so over-educated, so utterly ignorant of absolutely everything.”

We don’t actually meet Scotty until near the end of Act I, and in the meantime hear the other characters talk of him as so extraordinary that they literally believe he will become president of the United States.

Soon, Ben’s sister Faye (Judith Light) arrives with her family – her crude husband Mort (Mark Blum) and their socially inept daughter Shelley (Lauren Blumenfeld).

In different rooms of the house, we hear different conversations – an angry one between brothers-in-law Ben and Mort; an awkward first-time conversation between Jeff and Shelley; a jocular one between friends Jeff and Scotty; a sweet one between brothers Scotty and Timmy; a bitter one between sisters-in-law Faye and Julie. Faye complains about her daughter, whose slowness she finds worrisome, and about her mother, whose hostility has not abated although she is dying and losing her marbles: “The sense of neglect is the last to go.”

There is a slyness to these conversations on the part of the playwright that isn’t evident until the second act. It would be wrong of me to elaborate, except to say that they subtly focus on predictions for the future — and we learn just how unreliable predictions are in the Christmas gathering in 2000, when we see what has changed.

There is plenty of plot in “The Assembled Parties” — a mysterious red necklace, several secrets revealed, a resolution that is implausible, though not unforgivably so.  There are any number of themes – the power of loss; the frailty of expectation; the complexity of family dynamics  — immutable, except when they’re not: As one character puts it, “times change and new symmetries develop.” But neither its plot points nor its themes make “The Assembled Parties” stand out; there is less clarity and certainty in them than in Greenberg’s best plays, such as “Take Me Out.” What makes the play most satisfying is as a canvas for first-rate acting, performances that allow us to see these characters in a clarifying and affectionate light.

The Assembled Parties Samuel J. Friedman TheatreJeremy Shamos, who played two startlingly different characters in “Clybourne Park” 50 years apart, here plays the same character 20 years apart, in some ways a more impressive achievement; he is unmistakably older in a myriad of ways, but lurking inside him just as unmistakably is the same insecure young man who has a crush on the whole family.

Judith Light, on a roll that began two years ago in her Tony-nominated performance as the wife in “Lombardi” and then her Tony-winning performance as the drunken sister in “Other Desert Cities,” here continues as the sister-in-law who is hilarious in her dissatisfaction with both her family and with the politics of the moment, even as she denies she is dissatisfied with either.

This is the first role I’ve seen of Jessica Hecht where I’ve understood why so many people rave about her. I had trouble getting past her Brooklyn accent in  “Brighton Beach Memoirs” , thought her too one-note in   “A View From The Bridge,” and saw her interpretation of the stuffy sister in   “Harvey” as a tad eccentric, though she did show herself to be a good physical comedienne. But she is the center of “The Assembled Parties,” playing with great and meticulous style a character who tries to see the positive in everybody’s failings, including her own. Julie has a natural elegance, perhaps inheriting some of it from her hard-working mother, who was a well-known dress designer — in one touching scene, she wears one of her mother’s wonderful designs (which of course puts pressure on costume designer Jane Greenwood, who delivers the goods.) There is something odd and mesmerizing about her, the kind of character that anybody could fall in love with.

Also notable is Jake Silbermann who plays two different characters with wholly persuasive and impressive change in body language.

Credit for these captivating transformations must go in part to the spot-on direction is by Lynn Meadow, the artistic director of the Manhattan Theater Club, which has had a long-term relationship with Richard Greenberg; this is his eighth play there over the last 25 years. May he have at least eight more over the next 25.

The Assembled Parties Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

The Assembled Parties Samuel J. Friedman TheatreThe Assembled Parties

At Samuel L. Friedman Theater

Written by Richard Greenberg

Directed by Lynn Meadow

Set design by Santo Loquasto, costume design by Jane Greenwood, lighting design by Peter Kaczorowski, original music and sound design by Obadiah Eaves

Cast: Jessica Hecht, Judith Light, Jeremy Shamos, Mark Blum, Lauren Blumenfeld, Alex Dreier, Jake Silbermann, Jonathan Walker

Running time: 2 hours and 30 minutes, including one 15 minute intermission

Tickets: $67.00 – $120.00

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Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Assembled Parties, Far From Heaven…All By Richard Greenberg

RichardGreenbergplaywrightPlaywright Richard Greenberg, whom I profile in Playbill this month, has three plays opening nearly simultaneously in New York:

BreakfastAtTiffanysbyRichardGreenberg

Breakfast At Tiffany’s opened March 20 at the Cort Theater

The Assembled Parties is set to open April 17 at MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, starring Judith Light and Jessica Hecht.

Far From Heaven, musical starring Kelli O'Hara

Far From Heaven, a new musical based on the 2002 movie directed by Todd Haynes, has a book by Greenberg, and stars Kelli O’Hara. It is set to run from May 8 to June 30 at Playwrights Horizons.

It is not the first time that he has been working on more than one production at a time, but he resists the idea that he’s a good juggler.”I’m barely a mono-tasker,” he told me. When he has to multi-task, he says, he gets bronchitis.

We spoke in a diner in Chelsea that is his unofficial office, Moonstruck, but also a place to which he escapes.

An out-take from my interview: He used to hang out at a vest-pocket park near the diner, but he says he doesn’t have the leisure to do that anymore. “I took a coffee and I’d write. I was only allowed in the front part because I was unaccompanied by a child. When it was very cold, and peaceful, I’d bring a coffee and I’d just write. It felt like a grace note.You don’t have to drive through miles of serenity to get there.
“I hope I have time to do that again.”

“Far From Heaven” is one of the few theater pieces he’s written that don’t take place partly or wholly in New York. All the plays he’s done for the Manhattan Theatre Club are set in New York:

The Assembled Parties – 2012-2013 – NYC – Central Park West

The American Plan – 3 different productions (2008-2009, 1990-1991, 1989-1990) — Mostly in the Catskills, but the final scene is set in Manhattan

The Violet Hour – 2003-2004 – Set in Manhattan in 1919

Three Days of Rain – 1997-1998 – Set in NYC’s lower Manhattan in 1995 and 1960

Night and Her Stars – 1994-1995 — Set in NYC & Connecticut

Jenny Keeps Talking – 1992-1993 — Set in NYC’s Upper West Side & Maine

The Extra Man – 1991-1992 — Set in Manhattan

Eastern Standard – 1988-1989 — Set in NYC’s Upper East Side and the Hamptons