In Case You Missed It: April 9-15

Week in Review   In Case You Missed It: April 9-15 The Father opens on Broadway; Daniel Radcliffe returns to the New York stage; and the theatre loses one of its finest actresses.
Frank Langella and Kathryn Erbe
Frank Langella and Kathryn Erbe Joan Marcus

Whenever three-time Tony Award winner Frank Langella elects to grace Broadway, it’s an occasion. Even it its as the star of a play by a French writer no one in New York has heard of.

The American premiere of Florian Zeller's The Father officially opened April 14 on Broadway, with direction by Doug Hughes. The Manhattan Theatre Club staging began previews March 22 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.

The production notes for the play about a man battling dementia are appropriately European, promising that The Father “offers a fascinating look inside the mind of Andre (Langella), a retired dancer living with his adult daughter Anne and her husband. Or is he a retired engineer receiving a visit from Anne who has moved away with her boyfriend? Why do strangers keep turning up in his room? And where has he left his watch?“

Were the critics interested in where his watch was, or were they looking at theirs?

The Times called it, “one of the most disorienting experiences in town,” but praised 78-year-old Langella’s acting prowess, comparing the role with King Lear. “He nails the rage, pathos and cruelty behind that titanic part,” Ben Brantley wrote.

Deadline found the production to be slight, but again praised Langella’s stage turn, reporting “Langella, giving another master class in felt performance as André regresses — devolves, really — from strong-willed fighter to whimpering babe. The very features of the actor’s face seem to lose their fineness as reality escapes him like vapor through a pinhole, and the shadow rapidly overcoming André has a visceral impact evident in everything from his declining speech to the proud mannerisms that shrink to the ever more embryonic. It’s a performance of surpassing empathy, and sadness.”

Variety, also enrapt with Langella’s performance, reported “Langella does a superb job of communicating the conflicted feelings of a man who can’t believe — and won’t accept — the changes in his life. His darting eyes and clenched fists reflect the confusion, the fear, the denial and, on one or two dramatic occasions when his voice drops into its regal lower register, the towering rage. Misplacing his watch is cause for alarm.”


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Daniel Radcliffe is returning to the New York stage, this time Off-Broadway.

The Public Theater and Donmar Warehouse will present Privacy, a new play co-created by James Graham and Josie Rourke. Stage and screen star Daniel Radcliffe is set to star in the new work about privacy and technology in the digital age. Inspired by the revelations of U.S. government whistleblower, Edward Snowden, Privacy will go were no play has gone before: it invite audiences to keep their phones on during performances. (Please don't say this is the start of a trend.)

Radcliffe is set to star as “The Writer” and will be joined onstage by De’Adre Aziza, Raffi Barsoumian, Michael Countryman, Rachel Dratch and Reg Rogers, playing an ensemble of real-life politicians, journalists and technologists who have all contributed to the show.

Performances are set to begin July 5 and run through August 7 in the Newman Theater, with an official opening night set for July 18.

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The Broadway-aimed The SpongeBob Musical has announced its complete cast of unwater weirdos.

The show had previously cast a virtual unknown, Ethan Slater, in the title role from the hit Nickelodeon cartoon series. Newly added among the principals is Carlos Lopez, who will play Spongebob's penny-pinching boss, Mr. Krabs.

Lilli Cooper will play SpongeBob’s close friend Sandy Cheeks. Danny Skinner will make his Broadway debut as SpongeBob's dimwitted starfish pal Patrick. Gavin Lee will play the sourpuss squid Squidward, and Nick Blaemire will play the scheming villain Plankton.

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Anne Jackson, a theatre actress whose decades-long career was highlighted by frequent on-stage teamings with her husband Eli Wallach, died April 12 at her home in Manhattan. She was 90.

With Jackson’s passing also passes into history a theatrical era. Jackson was the last half of the last example of what was once a fairly common breed in the American theater: the acting couple. Jackson and Wallach were married for more than sixty years. And though they both did remarkable work on their own, they were best known for the work they did together. The husband and wife team appeared together in such shows as the massive 1960s Murray Schisgal comedy hit Luv, the American premiere of Ionesco's Rhinoceros in 1961, Promenade, All!, The Waltz of the Toreodors, Twice Around the Park, a 1989 revival of Cafe Crown and a 1994 revival of Odets' The Flowering Peach, among others.

They were following the tradition of other famous thespian teams like Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne and Hume Cronym and Jessica Tandy, twosomes who burnished their own reputations and gained a following by joining forces and playing off their natural chemistry.

Such married acting teams were even more common in the 19th century and early 20th century. But today, they are almost nonexistent. There are a number of reasons for this. It’s hard enough for one actor to make a living solely by doing theater, let along two. Playwrights no longer write plays expressively for the talents of particular duos, as Robert E. Sherwood and others once did for Lunt and Fontanne. And the sort of conventional plays that offer two equally juicy roles for a husband and a wife are not as common as they once were.

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