Logjam. That's the word heard more and more often these days about Broadway and Off-Broadway theatres. New musicals can't get to Broadway because there aren't enough appropriate venues to house them. Meanwhile, some of Off-Broadway's choicest venues are taken by long runs (How I Learned To Drive at the recently constructed Century Theatre; Stomp at the Orpheum, Gross Indecency at the Minetta Lane. Always. . . Patsy Cline at the Variety Arts, As Bees In Honey Drown at the Lucille Lortel).
There have been efforts to ease the congestion. Livent is building its own Ford Center (though Ragtime is expected to stay there for a long time). Off-Broadway has seen the resurrection of the Selwyn, first with the Wooster Group's The Hairy Ape in March, next when the Roundabout Theatre Company moves in and restores the premises.
Now another Off-Broadway venue is taking shape: the New Homefront Theatre, 236 West 54th St., around the corner from the Ed Sullivan Theatre.
Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda will be the first show at the New Homefront, opening Nov. 6. Set in a dingy Bronx "social club," Robert Liebowitz's drama tells of a down-on-his-luck horse handicapper dealing with such thugs as Jimmy the Gent and Barney the loan shark. Jay Lipschitz directs Coulda for the None of The Above Theatre Company.
As reported in Back Stage, the New Homefront was formerly the gay, x-rated New David Cinema but has now been taken over by Michael H. Davis and Kristi L. Lyons. They'd thought about making the former movie house a restaurant but instead decided on a bed and breakfast -- with an auditorium usable as a theatre space. "A lot of other theatres had looked at it," Davis told Back Stage in August. The venue can hold 120 seats but will be casually appointed with couches and lounge chairs "for a living room style" atmosphere. Davis and Lyons are keeping rental rates from $100-$150 for weekdays, with discounts if they get to handle the concessions. "We're not theatre people," Davis told Back Stage. "We're just managing a space, so we're open to suggestions."
For tickets ($30) and information on Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda at the New Homefront, call (212) 861-4998, x. 2.
As for the Selwyn, the Roundabout is halfway toward raising $10-$12 million for its restoration, changing it from a 900-seat venue to one holding 750-800 seats. Cora Cahan, of New 42nd Street Inc., told the New York Times, "The essential terms are all negotiated." The Roundabout is currently leased at its Criterion Center (1530 Broadway) address through Spring 1999. Artistic director Todd Haimes told the Times there was a chance the Criterion Center might extend its lease, but he was nervous about having to scramble for a new space if that fell through.
--By David Lefkowitz