THE FAST LANE: A funny thing happened on the way to sitcomville: Before he starts up an NBC series, Nathan Lane has managed to shoehorn in a play at Manhattan Theatre Club, Mizlansky/Zilinsky, or "schmucks", a comedy written by Jon Robin Baitz and directed by Joe Mantello. At one point Ron Leibman was said to be definite for this project, but now it's official that the co-stars will be Lewis J. Stadlen and Paul Sand. . . . The prestigious 1997 Joe A. Callaway Award went thatawayto Moisés Kaufman for his sleeper hit at the Minetta Lane, Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, now starring Edward ("Frasier") Hibbert. An Off-Broadway must! FANTASTICKS VOYAGE: Some 38 years and several hundred songs since the opening of their first show at the Sullivan Street PlayhouseThe (still running) FantasticksTom Jones and Harvey Schmidt have pulled together an enjoyable evening of show songs and are presenting it at the York Theatre Company under the title The Show Goes On. The title is a tune from their latest opus (Mirette), and it's particularly a beauty. "It sounds like Jerry Herman wrote itthat's why I like it," says Schmidt.
VIVA ELI: Eight days into his 82nd year, Eli Wallach did what still, happily, comes naturally to him: He opened in a new play. Jeff Baron's Visiting Mr. Green, at the Union Square Theatre, is a warm-hearted two-hander about two Jewsone ancient and widowed, the other young and gaywho come to a meeting of the minds. (David Alan Basche, in the other role, returns the serves with aplomb enough to warrant one of those Theatre World Awards that go to new-kids-on-the-block.) . . . How I Learned to Drive, Paula Vogel's Award-winning play at the Century Theatre, recently changed leading men. Cotter Smith, who was a series regular on ABC's "Equal Justice," replaced Bruce Davison in the role of Uncle Peck. Smith has also been seen on Broadway in Wendy Wasserstein's An American Daughter and Off-Broadway in Burn This, Empty Hearts and Walking the Dead. Film star Molly Ringwald continues in the role of L'il Bit.
-- By Harry Haun