The older the money, the stingier the meal — or so goes a persistent Wasp stereotype. Onstage, too, the rich can be unforthcoming. A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters, an epistolary play about such withholding among the upper crust, also suffers from it, partly the result of its stuntlike conception. It tells the story of stuffy but successful Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and free-spirited but doomed Melissa Gardner from the time they first encounter each other in second grade to about the age of 55, a period roughly coinciding with Earth years 1940 through 1988, when the play was first produced.
To judge from the grainy videos on YouTube, Bette Midler’s shows at the Continental Baths in 1971 were not especially vulgar. She mostly stuck to double entendres and generic ribaldry. What does seem shocking, even now, is the venue, that orgy palace of men in white towels — and the common cause Midler made with them as fellow outsiders. Bridget Everett delivers something of the same shock in her tornadic and polymorphously perverse cabaret act Rock Bottom, even though the polarities are reversed. The venue — Joe’s Pub — is more salubrious now, but the vulgarity, even accounting for inflation, is far greater. It amounts to the same thing, though: a complicated and often brilliant love offering to the emotionally dispossessed.
Michael Cera, he of the turtle face and pipe-cleaner arms, has cornered the market on screen nerdism to the point you would think there was nothing left for him to mine from the indignations of the socially awkward. Turns out, given material deep enough, there is. He’s found that material in Kenneth Lonergan’s This Is Our Youth, and under Anna D. Shapiro’s superlative direction uses it to fuel an unforgettable performance, the more so for marking his New York stage debut. As the overliteral, quasi-Asperger’s lost-soul 19-year-old Warren Straub — Cera is 26 but passes just fine — he digs so far into the character’s drugged-out disappointment you see only the shadows of it rippling the surface. Surprisingly that’s enough; he’s a triumph.
Elisabeth Moss is returning to Broadway to star in a revival of Wendy Wasserstein's The Heidi Chronicles, the show's producers told the New York Times today. This is the first Broadway revival of the show, which won both a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony in 1989. Moss will play Heidi, an art historian reflecting on her life; Jason Biggs will play Scoop Rosenbaum, a writer in Heidi's orbit; and Bryce Pinkham, a Tony nominee for his role in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, will play Peter Patrone, Heidi's gay BFF. Moss had been in negotiations for the role since this spring, but now it's a done deal, with the show scheduled to begin performances in February. Given that timeline, it now seems unlikely that Moss will be one of the leads on the second season of True Detective, but if you really want to see her in a murder show, you can still watch Top of the Lake.
George C. Wolfe’s The Colored Museum, an Off Broadway hit in 1986, was groundbreaking in the way a gravedigger is. Amid brilliant satirical confetti, it declared an end to a certain strain of black theater writing exemplified by a sketch he titled “The Last Mama-on-the-Couch Play,” taking off on the domestic piety of A Raisin in the Sun. Now the wittiest of the post-Wolfe provocateurs, Robert O’Hara, opens the season at Playwrights Horizons with the insanely entertaining Bootycandy, a play whose very title (a euphemism for penis that’s way more embarrassing than the word it replaces) would give Raisin’s Lena Younger palpitations. But then, O’Hara has no interest in earnest accommodation and stylistic comfort. As the play opens, the mama figure isn’t on the couch (she’s in a short skirt, putting on lipstick) and she isn’t trying to straighten out an aimless son whose “brow is heavy from 300 years of oppression” (as Wolfe put it). Rather, she’s trying to straighten out a proto-gay preschooler who has too many questions about personal hygiene and blow jobs.
Dexter's Michael C. Hall will be the next star of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, producers announced today. Hall's reign as Hedwig begins October 16 and runs through January 4; Andrew Rannells, who took over for Neil Patrick Harris at the end of August, will have his final performance October 12. (Tony winner Lena Hall continues in her role as Yitzhak.) Hall hasn't been seen singing and dancing much recently, but this isn't his first Broadway musical: He played the emcee in Cabaret in 1999 and Billy Flynn in Chicago a few years later. No one is lined up after Hall just yet, so ... someone! Call Joseph Gordon-Levitt at once!
In the summer of 2008, between my sophomore and junior years of college, I was a production intern for a Broadway musical called Passing Strange. One of the perks of the job was free tickets to the show, so one Thursday in June, I gathered a group of friends to join me. After the curtain fell, we exited the theater and found Joan Rivers waiting for her ride. Believing that this would be the only time we’d ever get to meet the one and only, we asked for a photo. She happily obliged and then started asking us questions.
The organizers of A.R. Gurney’s yearlong “residency” at the Signature Theatre Company did not lack for options to honor him, even with Love Letters already spoken for. (It opens on Broadway in two weeks.) No problem; there were still nearly 50 others to choose from. Among living playwrights of note, Gurney, now 83, is outrivaled for prolificacy only by Alan Ayckbourn, who is eight years younger and 30 works greater. I say “greater” advisedly. The two men share a taste, or perhaps because of their output a need, for narrative novelties and structural tricks, but Ayckbourn’s are always showier and, counterintuitively, more expressive. They are a means to an end; Gurney’s are, too often, a means to a means.
The New York Times reports that Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella will shutter on January 3 after a nearly two-year run. Along with the news of the closure, it was revealed that Real Housewives of Atlanta and Glee star NeNe Leakes will take over for Sherri Shepherd in the role of the wicked stepmother from November 25 onward. Meanwhile, Keke Palmer — who it was recently announced will be the first African-American woman to play Cinderella on Broadway — is slated to begin her stint on September 9. There's still time to catch her performance before the clock strikes 12 (on January 3)! Always on a time crunch, that Cinderella.
Here's Allison Williams in her full Peter Pan Live! getup, complete with mesh sleeves and some green bike shorts. (Looks like someone just got back from Burning Man!) However you imagined the the look of the role (we imagined more of a tights-based thing), it was pretty much a given that her long hair would have to go. And here it is — the dreaded wig. Williams explains: "I sort of very tentatively offered to cut my hair, I was like, 'You know, if it's a thing that would help I could cut my hair,' and they were like, 'You're welcome to do that, we're still gonna put you in a wig.'"
Hopefully, you've had a few minutes to play around with our Fall Entertainment Generator. But if you're looking for straight and simple lists of things to look out for by medium, we'll be breaking them out separately. Here's a look at fall theater.
Sure, we could have given you a list of 300-some odd things to watch, listen to, read, attend, and experience over these next several months. But where's the fun in being so limited? You're omnivorous and you want it all — Interstellar and the new Ken Burns documentary; the new David Mitchell novel and the new Taylor Swift; the Metropolitan Opera and Bob Seger. So here's our fall entertainment generator. Choose a type (a blockbuster, an indie, or something adventurous or trashy) and a feeling (something to make you laugh, cry, scared, thrilled, inspired, or feel smart) and see what pops forth. Then write down all those options and enjoy as many of them as you can. Happy autumn.
The Met’s labor crisis is over; the spiritual crisis goes on. There’s a lot to be thankful for in the way contract negotiations unfolded. All through a treacherous summer, rehearsals never stopped. Costumes kept being fitted, lighting adjusted, blocking practiced, and props assembled. Stagehands continued the colossal task of figuring out how to jump between centuries and continents in a matter of hours. As a result of all this coordinated effort, chandeliers will rise and necklines will drop on opening night, just as they do every year. James Levine will conduct the National Anthem, and, as always, a few retired sopranos in the audience will holler through the 3,800-person choir — their annual opportunity to be heard at the Met.
Emmy nominees Peter Dinklage and Taylor Schilling are heading to the stage together. The prestige TV dream-team will star in Ivan Turgenev's 19th-century comedy of manners A Month in the Country, starring Schilling as a bored Russian wife named Natalya who falls in love with her son's tutor, much to the annoyance of her unrequited admirer Rakitin (Dinklage). Dinklage's wife, Erica Schmidt, is directing the play, which will run for a month in early 2015 at the East Village's Classic Stage Company. And then it's straight back to TV, right, guys? Promise?
Two couples, a pleasant house, plenty of wine, and some arcing sexual current: Could there be a theatrical vehicle with a more interchangeable set of parts? Theresa Rebeck keeps squirting dramaturgical WD40 into her whirring contraption of a play Poor Behavior and, for a while, it works. Unctuously clever dialogue oozes out of Ian, the cynical Irishman (Brian Avers). His wife, the mercurial Maureen (Heidi Armbruster), careens into wittily unhinged rants. Marital arguments click smoothly along fixed tracks. It’s always entertaining to watch a weekend in the country speed so efficiently toward disaster. Soon enough, though, the machine starts to creak, giving off a clangor of whys and whines and reproaches that you can hear rumbling toward a huffy exit from ten minutes away.
Tonight, Broadway dimmed its marquee lights for one minute in honor of Robin Williams. And at last night's performance of Aladdin on Broadway, Tony winner James Monroe Iglehart, who plays the Genie in the musical, gave his own fitting tribute to the late great star, leading the audience in a sing-along of the Genie's iconic song "Friend Like Me." It was very sweet.
We're getting even more Peter Pan! The New York Times reports that Finding Neverland, a musical based on the 2004 film about Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie (played by Johnny Depp), will open for the first time on Broadway this March.
The high-profile musical marks Harvey Weinstein's first time as lead producer on a theatrical project, and it has been in the works for some time: After a tryout production drew mixed reviews back in 2012, Weinstein scrapped an earlier version of the script and hired a new team, helmed by Tony-winning director Diane Paulus (Pippin, Hair), to rework it. This is the first time a firm Broadway date has been announced, although many were predicting it after Jennifer Hudson performed a song from the production at this year's Tony Awards.
Emma Stone is in talks to make her Broadway debut, playing Sally Bowles in the revival of Cabaret that is currently running at Studio 54. While the rest of the cast is staying on, the New York Times reports Stone would replace Michelle Williams when she leaves the show on November 9. Stone was actually slotted for the role before Williams, but had to drop out for scheduling reasons. Of course, she did some stage acting as a kid, but as a working Hollywood actress since her teens, she hasn’t had any major stage experience. However, she is Emma Stone. She could lip-synch the musical and still get roses thrown at her every night.
Most contemporary plays, or at least the ones that make it to New York’s big stages, can be categorized as Realism Lite: recognizable people doing recognizable things, perhaps with a powder coat of stylization for sheen. Actual absurdism, the hope of the 1960s, is dead; the theater today aspires to the condition of Mad Men.
What hath Godot wrought? The pregnant, performative style of stage dialogue revolutionized by Beckett and honed by Pinter has, over the years, devolved into a cheap lingua franca used by playwrights as high-gloss varnish on their piddly dramedies and rom-coms. In the latter category is Scott Organ’s Phoenix, a two-hander featuring no existential dread, but plenty of dreadful conversations. These consist mostly of feints and gambits that curlicue endlessly around nothing: