Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of one of Harold Pinter's most accessible works received a warm welcome from most critics and audiences. It's a tale told in reverse, from the end of a high-class love affair to its beginning with a kiss at a party. Liev Schreiber was singled out for plaudits by the New York Times, and Juliette Binoche (a Tony nominee) and John Slattery also received their share of acclaim.
Gore Vidal's The Best Man
An all-star cast including Spalding Gray, Charles Durning, Elizabeth Ashley and Jonathan Hadary filled this revival of Gore Vidal's sharp 1960 satire of political maneuvering. Pitting an old-fashioned but slightly off kilter good guy (Gray) against a muckraking, right-wing, ultra-moralist (Chris Noth), both trying desperately to swing ballot support, The Best Man wasn't far-fetched at all, coming as it did in the midst of the insane chad shenanigans of 2000.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
With Gary Sinise at the helm and the famous Steppenwolf energy ever present, the revival of Dale Wasserman's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest has managed to stave off memories of Milos Forman's landmark film and extend its limited run to July 29. Terry Kinney directs this look at individuality vs. conformity, machismo vs. maternal suppression, and mind vs. matter.
The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe
Jane Wagner's solo for life-partner Lily Tomlin wasn't even considered a play by Tony rulemakers the first time around (though Tomlin did score a best actress win for the show in 1986). A mix of character comedy followed by a long segment of a woman trying to squeeze her 1960s idealism into 1970s-80s practical necessities, the show remains as famous for Tomlin's ceaseless energy and physicality as it is for Wagner's trenchant one-liners.
Analysis: The horse race here is between The Best Man and Cuckoo's Nest. The former had a lot of star wattage (although, by most accounts, the production didn't really gel until after most critics had already seen it) and proved both timely and still effective forty years after its premiere. On the other hand, Cuckoo's Nest, though skewered by some reviewers for its confused ideology, misogynistic underpinnings and forced stagecraft, has again proved quite powerful with audiences, for both its man-versus-the-system themes and its bravura sequences (the baseball game, the Christmas party). It's also still running, giving it a leg up on Best Man, which ended five months ago. Also rans: Betrayal has its loyal proponents, but just as many were left cold. A one-woman show, Search is likely seen as a "specialty act," less complicated to produce and stage than a play with numerous actors and characters. — By David Lefkowitz