The biggest story of the past week was, of course, what's due to happen at the start of next week: the unveiling of the Tony nominations. With the openings of Uncle Vanya on April 30 and Dirty Blonde on May 1, all contenders are present and accounted for. And speculation has such suffering shows as Taller Than a Dwarf and The Wild Party clinging on until May 8 at 8:30 AM to see if the Tonys will provide them with a booster shot.
The Tony Awards Administration Committee delivered its final spate of decisions May 4, so, if we won't know who gets honored until Monday morning, at least we know in what category they'll be in if nominated. Dirty Blonde, despite containing a few tunes, is a play -- no big surprise. But The Green Bird is a new play as well, despite Carlo Gozzi having written it over two centuries ago (granted, it never looked as it does in the hands of Julie Taymor, but still...). That said, the Tonys also decided -- just to keep you alert, and confused -- that the musical stagings in Dirty Blonde can be considered for a choreography nomination, and the music in The Green Bird can be nominated for best score.
Despite protests from the musicians union and a clutch of orchestrators, Contact, if it is nominated (which it most certainly will be), will be categorized as a musical. Also, director Matthew Warchus didn't get his wish for Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly to be considered for a single nomination. Wrote Warchus to the Tonys, "Anything that seeks to separate them and view them as individual contributors or, worse still, competitors [italics Warchus’], is an anathema to the whole ethos of the production.” The producers of True West have been very careful about preserving the dueling actors cachet of the production, and no Tony acting nominations may be better news for the show's fortunes than a single nod (the fact that Hoffman got a Drama Desk nomination as actor -- Reilly did not -- hasn't been mentioned in any of the play's advertising). If only Hoffman or only Reilly receives a Tony nom, it will be intriguing to see how the matter is handled.
The Outer Critics Circle did exactly what the True West producers want the Tonys to. They gave a special prize to Hoffman and Reilly. The OCC, which announced its winners May 1, also called Contact a musical, giving it the trophy as the best such show of the season. Otherwise, there were few surprises: Copenhagen won best play and Dinner with Friends won best Off-Broadway play. The OCC's honoring of Roy Dotrice of A Moon for the Misbegotten, Eileen Heckart in The Waverly Gallery and Susan Stroman's choreography, too, are no doubt harbingers of laurels to come.
Meanwhile, the 2000-2001 season slowly and quietly gets underway Off-Broadway. Eric Bogosian's latest solo work, Wake Up and Smell the Coffee opened on May 4. David Auburn's new play, Proof, began previews with Mary-Louise Parker at Manhattan Theatre Club May 2. And When They Speak of Rita, by Daisy Foote, Horton's daughter, began previews May 3 at Primary Stages. One play that was due to be an early entry in the new season, Keith Glover's Thunder Knocking on the Door, made an exit as quick as its entrance a couple weeks ago, leaving the Minetta Lane Theatre free once again. The producers issued an extraordinary press release, going out of their way to explain their move, saying "Despite positive notices and enthusiastic audience response at a variety of regional theatres, my producing partners and I agreed that...[the play] was not up to the standards of a more discerning New York audience. We did not believe that the artistic collaboration needed to bring it to this level was possible."
That closed Door may be the open one Christopher Durang's praised Betty's Summer Vacation has been waiting for these past 14 months or so. Since premiering in spring 1999 to some of the best reviews of Durang's career, the show has been trying to land a commercial gig. The Minetta Lane has been Durang's preference from the very beginning, but it was initially filled by Thwak, which stubbornly refused to die until the end of 1999. By that time, original Vacation producer David Stone had given up.
Now, a new trio of new producers -- Bernard Telsey, Robert LuPone and Roy Gabay -- hope to finally get Vacation on its commercial feet, with original director Nicholas Martin and most of the original cast.
Meanwhile, all week, actors were showing the powers that be that they won't be pushed around. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) kicked off a huge strike on May 1, with Actors' Equity asserting its support of the action. Until they get the contract they want, actors from the these two unions will not accept work in commercials for television, radio and Internet advertisers.
And over at the Ambassador Theatre, The Ride Down Mt. Morgan's Patrick Stewart was making public a more private dispute between him and his employers, protesting, in a couple impromptu post-performances speeches, the producers' perceived lack of promotional support of the drama. The Shuberts were having none of it and promptly filed a complaint of unprofessional behavior with Actors' Equity. The matter will be hashed out in a union hearing. For the time being, however, the result is what Stewart was after: more publicity.
--By Robert Simonson