In late September, the Off-Broadway comedy Eat the Runt seemed to be yet another theatrical casualty of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. However, box office picked up a bit and the hangman was stayed — but just for a little while. The show will, indeed, close Oct. 7, after 150 total performances.
Eat the Runt, something of a surprise hit at the American Place Theatre in midtown, posted a closing notice that would have ended its run Sept. 23. According to spokesperson Patt Dale, the producers even put up a provisional closing notice on Monday, Sept. 17, owing to money lost when the show canceled all its performances the week of the attacks and assumed it would suffer significantly lower grosses the following week. "We're trying to keep the show running, so I wouldn't want to predict anything definitely," Dale told PBOL (Sept. 20).
After attendance picked up, Eat the Runt rescinded its closing notice and announced dates at the American Place Theatre through the end of the year. Mefisto Theatre Company staged Runt at Altered Stages in June 2000, with Peter Hawkins directing. The current staging is produced by Matthew vonWaaden (the current director), Weil Richmond and Matthew Richmond. The producers cited "upcoming risks and liabilities for the Off-Broadway production along with staff and personnel issues" as the reason for the closing. "We choose to take our capital and invest it in future productions in other cities," they said in a statement.
Four Broadway shows shuttered on Sunday, Sept. 23: If You Ever Leave Me, I'm Going With You, A Thousand Clowns, Stones in his Pockets and Blast!, the latter announcing its plans to end on that date weeks before the terrorist attack. Kiss Me, Kate was also to have closed, but a deal worked out between the producers and the unions have kept it going. Off-Broadway Zulu Time and The Lowest Show on Earth were cancelled, Bat Boy, Tony n' Tina's Wedding and The Syringa Tree are on brief hiatuses.
Avery Crozier's broad comedy, Eat the Runt, started previews at the American Place Theatre May 25 and opened to mixed reviews June 5. It survived the traditional New York summer doldrums and reached its 100th performance Aug. 19. To celebrate, according to production spokesperson Patt Dale after that performance, the cast indulge in a cake with — what else? — "Eat The Cake" scripted on it. The play is fully scripted, with the same group of actors every night. However, the audience gets to choose which actor plays which role. In the original version, a couple of members of the audience were asked to draw balls from two buckets, one with character names, the other with actor names. This time, instead of going for something so random, all the audience members have remote control gadgets by which they can vote for who plays who.
Author Crozier revised the script, with the director and the company adding a "Casting Director" who helps "guide the audience and the actors through the selection of the cast" in the early part of the show. Video screens and a "Runt Score Board" show the tallies, which could have 40,320 possible results. A question-and-answer session with cast members, producers and other creatives is held after each performance.
As for the play itself, it concerns various odd and eccentric applicants for a museum job as grants manager. The characters are written without (except in one instance) any specific references to race, sex or ethnicity.
For tickets and information on Eat the Runt at the American Place Theatre, 111 West 46 St., call (212) 239-6200.
— By David Lefkowitz