Exit, Laughing: Tony-Winning Norman Conquests Ends Broadway Run

News   Exit, Laughing: Tony-Winning Norman Conquests Ends Broadway Run
 
The final curtain comes down as scheduled July 26 on the 2009 Tony Award-winning revival of Alan Ayckbourn's The Norman Conquests, the trilogy of funny-rueful plays at Broadway's Circle in the Square Theatre.
Stephen Mangan, Amanda Root, Paul Ritter and Amelia Bullmore
Stephen Mangan, Amanda Root, Paul Ritter and Amelia Bullmore Photo by Joan Marcus

The "curtain" is rhetorical, of course. The 1973 plays, directed by Matthew Warchus, were seen without a literal curtain — it played in the round in New York, as it did in 2008 in the hit Old Vic London revival. That six-actor British company transferred intact, and four of its players were nominated for 2009 Tonys.

The three plays (deemed one big play by the Tony Awards committee) won the 2009 Tony as Best Revival of a Play. The production is also the winner of three Drama Desk and three Outer Critics Circle Awards for Outstanding Revival of a Play, Outstanding Director of a Play (Matthew Warchus), and Distinguished Ensemble (Amelia Bullmore, Jessica Hynes, Stephen Mangan, Ben Miles, Paul Ritter, Amanda Root). The cast was also honored with a Theatre World special award and a special citation from the New York Drama Critics' Circle, shared with director Matthew Warchus.

At close, the performance count will be 18 previews, 109 performances (all shows combined).

Producers presented marathons of all three works — Table Manners, Living Together and Round and Round the Garden — on some weekends during the limited Broadway run (indeed, July 26 is a "trilogy" day).

Some fans of the interlocking plays said the best way to experience the works is in the one-day sitting (11:30 AM, 3:30 PM and 8 PM). The comedies were sold separately. The works are concurrently set in and around an English country house. When a character exits a room, he or she is stepping into a scene that appears in a later play — and the joke is richer and more immediate for audiences who experience it together in the same day. (Generally, you're nudging the same seat partner for all three shows.)

The Norman Conquests opened April 23 after previews from April 7. Round and Round the Garden was the Norman chapter that played on the opening night.

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The limited run marked the Broadway debut of the acclaimed 2008 production seen at The Old Vic in London. For the record, the plays were first seen on Broadway in the 1975-76 season, after their bow in Britain.

Warchus spun gold out of old with Boeing-Boeing in London and on Broadway; it was named Best Revival of a Play at the 2008 Tony Awards. He's also got a major hit on his hands with the Broadway production of God of Carnage, for which he won a 2009 Best Direction Tony (he competed against himself in the Best Direction of a Play category this year).

The works "are ingeniously written to be enjoyed individually or as a trilogy, in any order," according to the producers.

"The action is simultaneous and each exit in one play turns out to be an entrance in another," according to production notes.

This first Broadway revival of Ayckbourn's work features Amelia Bullmore (Ruth), Jessica Hynes (Annie), Tony nominee Stephen Mangan (Norman), Ben Miles (Tom), Tony nominee Paul Ritter (Reg) and Tony nominee Amanda Root (Sarah). Miles and Bullmore were not nominated for Tonys.

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Set in the dining room (Table Manners), living room (Living Together) and garden (Round and Round the Garden) of an English country house, The Norman Conquests "follows six characters — assistant librarian Norman, his wife, in-laws and the local vet — from Saturday night through Monday morning. We watch as desperate lothario Norman (Stephen Mangan) attempts to seduce his sister-in-law Tony nominee Annie (Jessica Hynes), charm his brother-in-law's wife Sarah (Amanda Root) and woo his estranged wife Ruth (Amelia Bullmore), during a disastrously hilarious weekend of eating, drinking and misunderstanding. With his characteristic compassionate humor, Ayckbourn explores the disappointments bubbling beneath the surface as his characters' dreams of love and fulfillment go amiss."

Jessica Hynes and Ben Miles
photo by Richard Termine

As with many Ayckbourn plays, the characters live rather humble lives of quiet desperation, caged by social conventions. Some critics view them as comic tragedies. *

The creative team includes set and costume designer Rob Howell, lighting designer David Howe, composer Gary Yershon and sound designer Simon Baker for Autograph. Production stage manager is Ira Mont.

The Norman Conquests is produced by Sonia Friedman Productions, Steven Baruch, Marc Routh, Richard Frankel, Tom Viertel, Dede Harris, Tulchin/Bartner/Lauren Doll, Jamie deRoy, Eric Falkenstein, Harriet Newman Leve, Probo Productions, Douglas G. Smith, Michael Filerman/Jennifer Manocherian, Richard Winkler in association with Dan Frishwasser, Pam Laudenslager/Remmel T. Dickinson, Jane Dubin/True Love Productions, Barbara Manocherian/Jennifer Isaacson.

For more information, visit NormanConquestsOnBroadway.com.

The company of <I>The Norman Conquests</I>
The company of The Norman Conquests
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