Last week, 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. Eat the Runt, something of a surprise hit at the American Place Theatre in midtown, posted a closing notice that would likely have ended its run Sept. 23, after 134 total performances.
According to spokesperson Patt Dale, the producers were forced to put up a provisional closing notice on Monday, Sept. 17, owing to money lost when the show cancelled all its performances the week of the attacks and assumed it would suffer significantly lower grosses the week of Sept. 17-23. "We're trying to keep the show running, so I wouldn't want to predict anything definitely," Dale told PBOL (Sept. 20).
Well, she was right to hold off on post-mortems. Attendance picked up a bit last week, and therefore Eat the Runt has rescinded its closing notice and will now continue performances indefinitely at the American Place Theatre. Tickets are on sale for dates through the end of the year.
Dale had said at the end of last week that, "The closing notice can be taken down if we get through the weekend and people return in droves." 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 will keep it open for at least two-to-four weeks.
Off-Broadway Zulu Time and The Lowest Show on Earth were cancelled, Bat Boy closed but may reopen. and 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.
Mefisto Theatre Company staged Runt at Altered Stages in June 2000. The current staging is produced by Matthew vonWaaden, Weil Richmond and Matthew Richmond. VonWaaden directs (though Peter Hawkins directed at Altered Stages).
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