PBOL'S THEATER WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 4-10: Off-Broadway Blues

ICYMI   PBOL'S THEATER WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 4-10: Off-Broadway Blues Broadway received the latest in a steady stream of well-received productions this past week. (Times Square is getting about one a month, which seems just fine to the community.) This one came from the nonprofit world, as the Roundabout Theater Company served up a critical triumph with its Joe Dowling-directed Tartuffe, starring Brian Bedford as Orgon and Henry Goodman as the title rascal.

The Roundabout so predictably scores with Bedford it's a wonder the theatre doesn't contract him more regularly. His last two forays, 1997's London Assurance and 1995's The Moliere Comedies, were solid successes for the nonprofit. The production also represents a redemption for one-time Producers star Henry Goodman, who proved he's a good actor, despite what Mel Brooks and company think.

Off-Broadway, which over the years has gotten used to its reputation as New York's prime generator of challenging work and award-winners, may been looking at Broadway's score card with some longing this season. This past week, one of its long-running shows, Love, Janis closed and Eve Ensler returned to The Vagina Monologues, ushering in the last weeks of that marathon tenant at the Westside. And Off-Broadway theatre, commercial and not, has so far not produced the shows that will replace them this season.

The one uncontestable success of Off-Broadway's first half is Richard Greenberg's Take Me Out, which began at the Public Theater and will soon open on Broadway. The other major achievements of the past six months—Caryl Churchill's Far Away at New York Theatre Workshop, Elaine May's Adult Entertainment, the campy Debbie Does Dallas—are ventures that would probably have been considered side lights in a more robust company.

Commercial productions of Stephen Mo Hanan's Jolson & Co, Israel Horovitz's My Old Lady closed after a few months. And Tommy Tune's return to the New York stage, White Tie and Tails, barely had a run at all. In the nonprofit world, Lincoln Center Theater's new Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens musical, A Man of No Importance, had fans, but generally didn't live up to expectations. Manhattan Theatre Club collected tons of reviews for Dael Orlandersmith's Yellowman, but the play unaccountably failed to move on to anything bigger. Regina Taylor's Crowns, at Second Stage, also won good notices, which again seemed to have no impact.

A.R. Gurney's The Fourth Wall at Primary Stages and Atlantic Theater Company staging of Joe Penhall's Blue/Orange eked out small extensions. So did the Public Theater's New York premiere of David Mamet's Boston Marriage, which failed to overly impress critics and audiences. And the season's second biggest nonprofit hit, Signature Theater Company's revival of Lanford Wilson's Burn This started out big but fizzled almost immediately when original cast members Edward Norton and Catherine Keener departed. The company's follow-up, Book of Days didn't come even close to matches its predecessor's performance. As for Playwrights Horizons, it has yet to produce a break-out play, but is culling considerably more interest with its winter line-up of reunion stagings, which began this week with the Jan. 9-12 run of Falsettos. Lonny Price directs a cast that includes original cast members Michael Rupert, Chip Zien, Alison Fraser, Faith Prince, Heather MacRae and Janet Metz. Reunions of Violet (Jan. 16-19), Adam Guettel and Tina Landau's Floyd Collins (Jan. 23 26) and Christopher Durang's Laughing Wild (Jan. 30-Feb. 2). The shows inaugurate the company's new $27 million facility.

The big Broadway send-off for Les Miserables is shaping up. Terrence Mann, Tony Award-nominated for playing Inspector Javert when it first opened in the 1986-87 season, will return to the show for the musical's final weeks, Feb. 4-March 15. Rumors have Colm Wilkinson and other original Broadway cast members also being wooed.

In other Broadway news, playwright David Hare expects his work back on Broadway in fall 2003 with the arrival of Breath of Life, the West End's current sell-out smash starring Dame Maggie Smith and Dame Judi Dench. No word on whether the two Dames will repeat their performances, but one would imagine that's the whole raison d'être of the enterprise. Yasmina Reza's Life x 3, meanwhile, should it get to Broadway this season, will star Helen Hunt and John Turturro.

And remember what was written in this space last week about theatre artists returning to shows they've already done? Well, director Scott Ellis and choreographer Susan Stroman will restage their 1991 New York City Opera triumph, A Little Night Music, at—where else?—New York City Opera, starting March 7. The very British, not-known-to-be-tuneful cast includes Jeremy Irons, Juliet Stevenson, Claire Bloom and Kate Burton (not British, no, but sprung from two of the UK's citizens).