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February 2017 NY Theater Openings

Broadway this month will see the opening of two starry musical  revivals by two of the reigning composers of musical theater — Stephen Sondheim (86) and Andrew Lloyd Webber (68) — while Off-Broadway pays tribute to Jerry Herman (85) and Kurt Weill (1900-1950), and presents a new musical by John Kander (89.)

Meanwhile, Off-Off Broadway is showcasing the work of one of New York’s hottest musical composers, Dave Malloy (41), best-known for the hit Broadway musical Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812., which also started Off-Off-Broadway.

The month will also see the opening of new plays by (among others) Brandon Jacob-Jenkins, David Mamet,  Tanya Saracho,and  Will Eno, and new productions of plays by Tracy Letts and Wallace Shawn.

Below is a list, organized chronologically by opening date, with descriptions. Each title is linked to a relevant website.

Color key: Broadway: Red. Off Broadway: Purple or Blue. Off Off Broadway: Green.
To look at the Spring season as a whole, check out my Broadway Spring 2017 Preview Guide and my Off Broadway Spring 2017 Preview Guide

February 1

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Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose (Davenport)

Ed Dixon recounts how he came to know and admire character actor George Rose, who acted with such luminaries as Katherine Hepburn and Noel Coward.

February 8

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Jonah and Otto (Lost Tribe at Theater Row)

Over the course of a single day, two men  – one 26, the other 62; different in every way – share their solitude and unfold their secrets.

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Fade (Primary Stages at Cherry Lane)

A comedy by Tanya Saracho about the burgeoning friendship between Lucia and Abel, two Latinos of Mexican descent working at a ruthless Hollywood studio

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Big River (Encores at City Center)

The Encores concert version of the Tony-winning musical based on Mark Twain’s novel “Huck Finn.”

February 9

The Mother of Invention (Abingdon at June Havoc)

James Lecesne’s unflinching and comedic look at how one family deals with the effects of Alzheimer’s.

Sunset Boulevard (Palace Theatre)

Glenn Close stars in a revival of the 1994 musical based on the 1950 Billy Wilder movie about a faded Hollywood silent film goddess who tries to make one last comeback. This production was seen in a spring 2016 revival in London.

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The Object Lesson (New York Theatre Workshop)

In what’s becoming its signature activity, NYTW has physically transformed their theater once again, this time turning it into a giant storage facility.  allowing audiences to roam and poke through the clutter.

February 10

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Crackskull Row ( Irish Rep)

Rasher Moorigan has a secret that only his mother knows. Tonight  – for the first time in over thirty years – mother and son spend May Eve together in a wreck of a house down the backlanes of Dublin

February 12

kurt-weill

Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill: (York)

Kurt Weill’s theater songs are presented in the York’s “Musical in Muftis” series (a short run), in a blend of music and story, spanning twenty years, from Von Hindenburg and Hitler in Germany to Roosevelt and Truman in the U.S.

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Beardo (Pipeline)

Beardo, which takes place in St. John’s Lutheran Church in Greenpoint,  is a “Russian indie rock musical” with music by Dave Malloy ( Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.) “This New York premiere explodes the mad inner workings of Rasputin, the infamous mystic who sexed his way to the fall of the Russian monarchy.”

Ring Twice For Miranda (NY City Center Stage II)

A man known only as Sir rules with a vengeance, but it’s Miranda, a chambermaid, who adds intrigue to his life. When Elliot, the butler, is fired, she flees with him in defiance onto the frightening streets. All must soon make critical decisions with imperfect facts to guide them, since little in their world is as it appears.

February 15

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Man From Nebraska (Second Stage)

A revival of the play by Tracey Letts, directed by David Cromer, starring Reed Birney (The Humans) as Ken, a middle aged man from Nebraska, who suddenly finds he’s lost his faith, along with his sense of purpose. He goes on a wild adventure to find it. Along the way he encounters a world vastly different from his own, filled with chance meetings and romantic encounters that shake him to the core.

February 16

Wallace Shawn, from the National Theater production.

Wallace Shawn, from the National Theater production.

Evening at the Talk House (New Group at  Signature)

The New Group at Signature) by Wallace Shawn with Matthew Broderick, Jill Eikenberry, John Epperson, Larry Pine, Wallace Shawn, Claudia Shear, Annapurna Sriram, Michael Tucker.  Shawn takes on theater itself with this acerbic and stealth political comedy about theater artists who  have a reunion at their old hangout, the Talk House, to reminisce about the show they made a decade ago — except most are no longer theater artists. There’s been “a decline in the theatergoing impulse.”

February 19

On The Exhale (Roundabout)

A play by Martin Zimmerman (Netflix’s Narcos) starring Marin Ireland as a liberal college professor inexplicably drawn to a weapon used in a senseless act of violence.

February 21

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Everybody (Signature)

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s new play is a modern version of Everyman, a famous morality play about Christian salvation from the 15th century. I have no idea what he’s doing with it, but he was very clever in a play called Octoroon, which was his take on an 19th century melodrama, and both provocative and thoughtful in his play Gloria

February 22

If I Forget (Roundabout)

A new play by Steven Levenson (“The Language of Trees,” “The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin”) that tells the story of the bickering reunion of liberal Jewish studies professor Michael Fischer with his two sisters to celebrate their father’s 75th birthday shortly before 9/11.

DC production of Kid Victory

DC production of Kid Victory

Kid Victory (Vineyard)

The latest collaboration between John Kander and Greg Pierce. “Seventeen-year-old Luke returns to his small Kansas town after a wrenching one-year absence. As his friendship grows with the town misfit, Emily, his parents realize that in order to truly find their son, they must confront some unnerving truths about his disappearance.”

February 23

City Center

Sunday in the Park with George (Hudson Theater)

Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford star in this
transfer of the New York City Center‘s fall 2016 concert version of the Pulitzer-winning Sondheim and Lapine 1984 musical about pointillist painter George Seurat. It marks the re-launching of the Hudson Theater (built in 1903) as the 41st Broadway house.

Linda (MTC at City Center)

Penelope Skinner’s play is about a successful woman whose pitch to change the way the world looks at women of a certain age winds up making her fight for her own relevance.

February 24

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The View UpStairs (Lynn Redgrave Theater)

A young fashion designer from 2017 buys the abandoned space that was the UpStairs Lounge, a vibrant ’70s gay bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

February 26

Dear World (York)

Tyne Daly stars in the York’s “Musical in Mufti” (short run) of Jerry Herman’s musical based on the Madwoman of Chaillot.

February 27

Wakey, Wakey (Signature)

Will Eno’s play “challenges the notion of what really matters and recognizes the importance of life’s simple pleasures.” The downtown playwright  who made his Broadway debut recently with the abstruse The Realistic Joneses has his admirers; I’m not yet one of them.

The Penitent (Atlantic)

A new play by David Mamet. “A renowned psychiatrist is asked to testify on behalf of a young patient. When he refuses, his career, ethics and faith are thrown into question.”

Nibbler (The Amoralists at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre)

A play by Ken Urban that takes place in the summer of 1992 in Medford, New Jersey, when Adam and his gang of friends face life after high school.  But then the fivesome encounter a mysterious visitor from another world, and their lives are forever changed

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Bull In A China Shop (LCT)

A comedy by Bryna Turner that follows Mary Woolley and her partner Jeannette Marks through 40 years in a New England seminary as they reform and revolutionize women’s education at the height of the suffrage movement.

February 28

A Gravediggger’s Lullaby (TACT at Theatre Row)

A new play by Jeff Talbott about the life of Baylen, an honest, hard-working gravedigger who sweats and bleeds to support his small family

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Into the Woods Movie Review and Photographs: Disney Does Sondheim

The long-awaited, visually sumptuous film version of “Into The Woods” is likely to please theatergoers who are already fans of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s clever 1987 musical mashup of our culture’s best-known fairy tales, even if they have some quibbles; it will surely thrill the fans of the many stars that populate the film, a cast so uniformly first rate that Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp don’t especially stand out. We’ll have to see whether the average moviegoers, fairy tale enthusiasts, and parents looking for family entertainment will just scratch their heads.
It wouldn’t be the first time “Into The Woods” has elicited that reaction.

Click on any photograph to see it enlarged

“Once upon a time,” the musical and the movie begin, and we are introduced to the characters who make up the familiar tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel — as well as a new fairy tale of Sondheim and Lapine’s invention, the baker and his wife, who are cursed with childlessness by the neighbor next door, a witch.  To lift their curse, the witch tells them what they must do:

Their mission thus causes them to interact with the other fairy tale characters, such as Jack of Jack and the Beanstalk.

In the first half, the tales are told in tuneful takes and comic flourishes, such as Cinderella (Anna Kendick) deciding to leave her shoe behind, rather than in the usual tale accidentally losing it.

(The intricacy and cleverness of Sondheim’s lyrics like those of “On the Steps of the Palace” helped convince aficionados like Michael Schulman first to fall in love with Into The Woods when he was 10 years old:

You think, what do you want?
You think, make a decision.
Why not stay and be caught?
You think, well, it’s a thought,
What would be his response?
But then what if he knew
Who you were when you know
That you’re not what he thinks
That he wants?

And then what if you are?)

(Sondheim slightly changes the lyrics of the song in the movie so that it is all present-tense stream-of-consciousness. Instead of “You think, what do you want?” it’s “All right, what do you want?”)

Midway through, everybody has gotten to the point of living happily ever after. But then adult-like complications and seaminess and tragedies set in — as they congregate in the woods — and we all learn that life is never “ever after” after all.

“One needn’t necessarily have read Bruno Bettelheim’s classic Freudian analysis to realize that, in remaking Grimm stories, Mr. Sondheim’s lyrics and Mr. Lapine’s book tap into the psychological mother lode from which so much of life and literature spring,” Ben Brantley wrote in his review when the musical first opened on Broadway in November, 1987. “What is harder to explain,” he added, is why the show “disappoints” — neither as harrowing nor as moving as Sondheim’s previous efforts. “The concept is brilliant… the various narrative jigsaw pieces often prove either cryptic or absent.”

Still, the show ran for nearly two years and 765 performances, and was revived on Broadway in 2002, and in Central Park in 2012. An Off-Broadway production is currently in previews at the Roundabout. There are plenty of people who’ve never cottoned to this musical; others who’ve turned it into a cult favorite.

Those fearing that Disney would turn “Into The Woods” into “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” can relax. Yes, a few songs have been altered or eliminated; each felt for a good reason. But, as directed by Rob Marshall (director and choreographer of the current “Cabaret” on Broadway and the movies for “Chicago” and “Nine”), the darkness of the second half remains.

Over the years, I’ve vacillated as to which “Into The Woods” camp I belong to, cult or contrarian, depending on the latest production I saw.  The show can seem too clever, and too convoluted.  But whatever its qualities on stage, that is where it belongs, it seems to me. A show rooted in storybooks and fairy tales belongs in a medium that emphasizes language (and melody) and metaphor, and allows us to imagine the story —  as children are asked to imagine when we read these tales to them.  Movies feed us images, force us to take things more literally. That said, there are several scenes and particular performances, however, that won me over to this movie adaptation.

It would be hard to go wrong once you’ve cast Tracey Ullman as Jack’s mother, Christine Baranski as Cinderella’s stepmother and Meryl Streep as the witch, and they are just as funny and good as we expect them to be. But both Chris Pine (best known for Star Trek roles) as Cinderella’s Prince Charming and Billy Magnussen as Rapunzel’s Prince come as comic revelations to the moviegoing public. In “Agony,” they straddle a waterfall in manly poses as if at a fashion shoot and duet together their frustration at their lovers being out of their reach.

High in her tower,
She sits by the hour,
Maintaining her hair.
Blithe and becoming and frequently humming
A lighthearted air

The princes rip open their shirts at the same time, as if in breast-beating agony, but also narcissistic boy pin-up mode.

Later Meryl Streep as the witch (slight spoiler) cuts off the long lustrous locks of her surrogate (kidnapped) daughter Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy), and shoves her Prince in an eel-filled swamp, blinding him; the two lovers somehow finally crawl to one another, her tears dropping into his eyes and curing his blindness. His first words: “Your hair? It looks good.” – given as hilarious a line reading as anything Magnussen did on stage in both Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, and Sex With Strangers)

James Corden, who is slated to be a TV host on CBS and was so anarchically hysterical in One Man Two Guvnors, here plays the baker, with his wife portrayed by Emily Blunt, who was so memorable as the snobby assistant in “The Devil Wears Prada.”  We knew they were good in those roles, but now understand how accomplished they are as actors by seeing them play simple (but not stupid) country people so persuasively. They help steer the occasionally pitching ship that is “Into the Woods.”

But the clincher for me was near the end when Cinderella was giving advice to Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford, Broadway’s Annie) — the same advice the baker was giving to Jack of the beanstalk (Daniel Huttlestone, the preternaturally precocious teen who played Gavroche in the latest movie version of Les Miserables) The song could not have been more melodious, nor the singing more inviting:

Mother cannot guide you.
Now you’re on your own.
Only me beside you.
Still, you’re not alone.
No one is alone. Truly.
No one is alone.

Sometimes people leave you.
Halfway through the wood.
Others may deceive you.
You decide whats good.
You decide alone.
But no one is alone….

Witches can be right, Giants can be good.
You decide what’s right you decide what’s good

 

I decided that “Into The Woods” is good.

 

Into The Woods

Directed by Rob Marshall; written by James Lapine, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, based on the musical by Mr. Sondheim and Mr. Lapine; director of photography, Dion Beebe; edited by Wyatt Smith; production design by Dennis Gassner; costumes by Colleen Atwood; musical staging by John DeLuca and Mr. Marshall; musical score adaptation by David Krane, conducted by Paul Gemignani; orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick; produced by Mr. DeLuca, Mr. Marshall, Marc Platt and Callum McDougall; released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Running time: 2 hours 4 minutes.

Cast: Meryl Streep (Witch), Emily Blunt (Baker’s Wife), James Corden (Baker), Anna Kendrick (Cinderella), Chris Pine (Cinderella’s Prince), Christine Baranski (Stepmother), Tracey Ullman (Jack’s Mother), Johnny Depp (Wolf), Lilla Crawford (Little Red Riding Hood), Daniel Huttlestone (Jack), Billy Magnussen (Rapunzel’s Prince), MacKenzie Mauzy (Rapunzel), Tammy Blanchard (Florinda), Lucy Punch (Lucinda), Frances de la Tour (Giant) and Simon Russell Beale (Baker’s Father).

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Hands On A Hardbody, Weirdness All Over Broadway

BreakfastHardbodySondheimWeirdnessBroadway’s been so weird lately that you don’t even have to mention Rebecca, or a cat getting fired, or Alec Baldwin to come up with ten questions in a Weird Theater Quiz Spring 2013.

The cat was fired from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” not the only weirdness coming from that play that opened this past week. Also opening: Hands on A Hardbody, marking the Broadway songwriting debut of Trey Anastasio. Links to reviews below.

Also below: Celebrations of the birthdays of three of the greatest living Broadway songwriters: John Kander, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim, with some videos of our favorite songs.

And: Alan Cumming takes a stand against the most famous theatrical superstition.

The Week in New York Theater

Monday March 18, 2013

Songwriter John Kander (Cabaret, Chicago, Scottsboro Boys) turns 86

Songwriter John Kander (Cabaret, Chicago, Scottsboro Boys) turns 86

After two years at the Beacon Theater, The Tony Awards return to Radio City Music Hall on June 9th (on CBS live starting 8 p.m. ET)

FREE ‏tickets available March 25th for a March 28th concert at Town Hall celebrating its landmark designation.

Playwright Annie Baker was awarded the $25,000 Susan Blackburn Prize for “The Flick” and has become the second recipient of the Horton Foote Legacy Project, “which includes a four-week writing residency, starting in May, at Foote’s preserved home in Wharton, Tex.”

Performer Dee Dee Bridgewater  will star as Billie Holiday in “Lady Day” at Off-Broadway’s Little Shubert opening September 26.

Today is John Kander’s 86th birthday. What is your favorite Kander and Ebb song?

What good is sitting alone In your room?/

Come hear the music play./

Life is a Cabaret, old chum,/

Come to the Cabaret.

Ann Wallace @aenordland  That’s like asking who is my favorite daughter. That being said, “All That Jazz.”

Come on, babe/

Why don’t we paint the town/

And all that jazz?/

..I’m no one’s wife/

I love my life/

And all that jazz.

‪Robert Falls @RobertFalls201

“Happiness comes in on tiptoe/

Well what do you know/

It’s  a quiet thing/

A very quiet thing…”

(A Quiet Thing from Flora The Red Menace)

Drew Blau‪ @drewlblau

Lying all alone, I’m thinkin’/

Staring at the stars, I wonder/

Since I been away, I’m lonely/

When I’m gonna go back home

(Go Back Home from Scottsboro Boys)

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Lynn Redgrave

45 Bleecker Street Theater will be renamed after the late Lynn Redgrave

CultureProject’s 45 Bleecker Street Theater will be renamed the Lynn Redgrave Theater to honor the late actor and playwright.

Here Lies Love, Alex Timbers/David Byrne/Fatboy Slim musical at the Public Theater doesn’t begin until April 2nd, but is already extended to May 19th.

Finalists for Steinberg/ATCA new play award:Johnna Adams, Ayad Akhtar, Lucas Hnath, Mia McCullough, Dan O’Neil, Robert Schenkkan. Schenkkan, finalist or All The Way, on LBJ’s struggle to pass Civil Rights Act, won Pulitzer for Kentucky Cycle

Sign up for Company’s Marathon — the reading of ALL of Shakespeare’s canon April 16-20 from Facing Page Productions.  Shakespeare wrote a total of 101,919 lines. His longest play, at 32,241 words, is Hamlet, says Facing Page. His shortest: Comedy of Errors.

Meryl Wheeler ‏@MamaMeryl  This is so cool! And for the musical side of Shakespeare, Shakespeare Songbook at Lyrics & Lyricists at 92nd Street Y.

Broadway veteran Karen Olivo (Rent, Brooklyn, In The Heights, West Side Story) says she is quitting acting. “My abilities have always been bigger than my desire to share them”

Luther Mandrawz ‏‪@Kiarri_ NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!

Peter Marks @PeterMarksDrama: Wow

Meg McSweeney ‏‪@megmcsweeney” oh please. So dramatic, announcing it like this. Why doesn’t she just take a break and see what happens?

Is it time for artists to get serious about unionizing?

Being a musician is a good job, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to go broke doing it.”–David Byrne

“I Hope They Serve Beer on Broadway” aiming for Off-Broadway in June

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RedgraveEisenbergRevisionistThe Revisionist by Jesse Eisenberg, who is co-starring with Vanessa Redgrave, has been extended to April 27th. There is reportedly talk of a Broadway transfer

No,they didn’t settle, & now a federal judge has set a May 28 trial date for Julie Taymor vs. Spider-man producers and composers

New York Times: Cat understudy in Breakfast at Tiffany’s fired for being difficult

Should Actors Equity or the ASPCA intervene?  ‏

JoseSPiano ‏@JoseSPiano20 How about Mrs. Lovett?

Actors Equity ‏@ActorsEquity20 We’re without all the facts but we don’t condone catty behavior; sometimes you can’t help a sourpuss

There’s a rash of these animal actor firings: Helen Mirren got a corgi kicked off the cast of “The Audience” in the U.K.

Playwright Stephen Adly Giurgis (left) reads from one of his plays at the Labyrinth Theater's New York, New York Festival.

Playwright Stephen Adly Giurgis (left) reads from one of his plays at the Labyrinth Theater’s New York, New York Festival.

New York, New York Festival at the Labyrinth Theater Company

Sigourney Weaver and Christopher Durang, friends for 40 years. “We bonded over our radar for crackpot things”

Cory Michael Smith and Emilia Clarke at 21 Club in Breakfast At Tiffany's

Cory Michael Smith and Emilia Clarke at 21 Club in Breakfast At Tiffany’s

My review of Breakfast At Tiffany’s

When Holly Golightly sits on the fire escape strumming a guitar and singing, those watching  “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” at the Cort Theater may temporarily feel in familiar territory, even though this Holly is not Audrey Hepburn and she isn’t singing “Moon River.” But for maximum appreciation of this stylish and intriguing stage version, written by Richard Greenberg and starring Emilia Clarke and Cory Michael Smith, it helps to forget the brightly romantic 1961 film. This of course is not possible, which is one reason why this “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is ultimately unsatisfying.

Full review of Breakfast At Tiffany’s

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HardbodyJoyoftheLord

My review of Hands on a Hardbody

“Hands on a Hardbody,” an odd but tuneful new musical based on a 1997 documentary film about a sadistic endurance contest to win a pickup truck in Texas, might as well be called “American Idle,” or “They Shoot Horsepower, Don’t They?” or “A Chorus Line, SUV.”  The contest was simple: The winner had to keep at least one hand on the truck, a Nissan Hardbody, longer than any of his competitors.  The musical is also simple:  Each of ten contestants gets at least one song to sing or monologue to speak about their hard-luck life before dropping out; they all also periodically dance around the truck…Its most striking aspect is all the talent poured into it….They deserve more memorable characters to portray

Full review of Hands on a Hardbody

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AlanCummingMacbethmarqueeAlan Cumming will say “Macbeth” even in the theater, despite The Curse Of The Scottish Play . Patti LuPone disagrees.

2013 lifetime achievement Tonys to go to Lincoln Center’s Bernard Gersten,set designer Ming Cho Lee, Jujamcyn Theater’s Paul Libin

“Turn your thoughts away from cold unfeeling light/ And listen to the music of the night”-Happy 65th Birthday,

Andrew Lloyd Webber

gmg1961 ‏@Aquarius196122  my favorite of all time…. Phantom is timeless!!! It’s NEVER over, the music of the night…


“Good times and bum times, I’ve seen them all/ And, my dear, I’m still here”~ Stephen Sondheim, 83 today

 

Somebody,make me come through

I’ll always be there

As frightened as you

To help us survive

Being alive

Being alive

Being alive!

Kathy Perry ‏@krperry222  Bobby, Bobby, Bobby Baby, Bobby Booby, Robert…:)

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Take the Weird Theater Quiz

Take the Weird Theater Quiz

Take the Weird Theater Quiz Spring 2013. See how weird it’s gotten

Sample question:

Which plot is that of a show this season?

  •  Ten people try to keep one of their hands on a truck for four days.
  •  Three people work in an old movie theater over the summer, mostly sweeping the aisles
  •  A crazy, ill woman stalks a military hero and then he falls in love with her
  •  A group of archaeologists dig up artifacts in Illinois
  •  They all are
  •  None are

Miles Lott @mlottjr  Got a 100%. Truly a time when truth is stranger than…you know what.

Seven films based on the Bard: e.g. West Side Story (Romeo & Juliet),),My Own Private Idaho (Henry IV & V)  

Sonia Sotomayor, Fiona Shaw, Hilton Als in Pen’s World Voices Festival April 29-May 5

The Living Theater’s “Here We Are” at Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center March 26-29

15hunksonBroadwayNow

15 Hunks on Broadway

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Complains about "The Flick" have led Playwrights Horizons artistic director Tim Sanford to send an e-mail to the theater's subscribers.

Complains about “The Flick” have led Playwrights Horizons artistic director Tim Sanford to send an e-mail to the theater’s subscribers.

So many theatergoers complained about The Flick that Playwrights Horizons artistic director Timothy Sanford has written a response –– and I respond to the response.

Julie Haverkate ‏‪@JulieHaverkate  “Did we know we had programmed a 3hour play when we chose it? No” Almost sounds like if he’d known, wouldn’t have picked it

Donna Hoke ‏‪@donnahoke  If the play actually accomplished what she said she wanted to it, I might have forgiven some of the endless silences.