PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, April 5-11: Pulitzer Sur-Prize

News   PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, April 5-11: Pulitzer Sur-Prize The most comical sight in theatreland this week was that of playwrights and Pulitzer candidates Richard Greenberg and Edward Albee, stunned, slack-jawed, asking their agents, "Who won the prize? Anna in the what, now?"

Anna in the Tropics, a play by Cuban-born playwright Nilo Cruz which has only been seen at the New Theatre in Coral Gables, Florida, is the darkest horse to run away the Pulitzer since Robert Schenkkan's The Kentucky Cycle took the award in 1991. Like Schenkkan's sprawling work, Anna won the Pulitzer before setting a toe in New York City. Since then, every winner has had a Gotham bow before being anointed by Columbia University.

The surprise win had an immediate and rather amusing affect on regional theatre. Prior to the Pulitzer news, Anna had been quietly booked for 2003-04 productions at nonproits in New Jersey, Chicago and California. But where Anna was once mentioned as merely one title in a line-up, it was now suddenly the cornerstone of the seasons at the McCarter Theatre, South Coast Repertory and Victory Gardens; each company sent out a new press releases trumpeting the scheduling of Anna (and, implicitly, celebrating the prescience and insight of the folks who did the booking.)

Here in New York, the reaction to the jury's decision was somewhat subdued, leading a Miami newspaper to accuse the New York press (including Playbill On-Line) of being snobbish. Our sin? We called the play "all but unknown." Well, unless you're a dramaturg or a theatre lover in Coral Gables, it is. As for the runners-up, Albee's probably gotten over the upset by now. He already has three Pulitzers on his mantle, and won a Tony for The Goat last year. He didn't really need another award. But the producers of Greenberg's Take Me Out were no doubt disappointed, hoping a Pulitzer win would boost audience interest in the Broadway production, which hasn't yet found the audience it arguably deserves. Well, there's still the Tony race to look forward to. Take Me Out is the odds-on favorite and Anna in the Tropics will not be a nominee.

Nine, the Roundabout Theatre Company revival of the Maury Yeston musical, opened on April 11 to largely laudatory reviews. Though the show boasted Antonio Banderas, Jane Krakowski, Mary Stuart Masterson and Chita Rivera and had a tested director in David Leveaux, many viewers were nonetheless taken aback by the stylish, captivating production which seemed to have snuck onto Broadway without anybody noticing. The show soon started selling tickets through August (June 29 had been the end date). And overnight, the show emerged as a heavy contender in the Tony contest.

Elsewhere on Broadway, Salome, the first production in Broadway history to feature the words The Reading as part of its title, began previews. Al Pacino, Dianne Wiest and Marisa Tomei star in this limited run, which lasts only until June 7. And, looking ahead, The Wiz, the 1975 musical which retold L. Frank Baum's classic fairy tale "The Wizard of Oz" with an African-American cast and a rhythm-and-blues-flavored score, will get a major Broadway revival during the 2003-04 season, courtesy of the Dodgers and Des McAnuff. Also next season, Mary-Louise Parker will star in a new Off-Broadway staging of Craig Lucas' Reckless at Second Stage. It's Parker's first stage appearance since winning everything in sight for Proof and her first turn in the theatre work of Lucas since Prelude to a Kiss made her a star. There were more in-house promotions at The Producers, the show whose motto must be "Don't talk to—or cast—strangers." Lewis J. Stadlen and Don Stephenson of the first national tour will jump into the Broadway troupe April 29 and May 20, respectively, and Brad Oscar and Roger Bart, the present Max and Leo, will leave New York on April 27 and May 18. Oscar will go on to tour with the second national. Bart will leave to film the remake of "The Stepford Wives" with Nicole Kidman. (That's not a joke.) What else? Tony Award-winner Gary Beach will leave the Broadway role of Roger DeBris April 24 to open in L.A. as DeBris opposite Jason Alexander and Martin Short until Sept. 30, when he is scheduled to return to the Broadway cast. And the current Franz Liebkind, John Treacy Egan, trades the lederhosen for a dress when he takes over the role of Roger DeBris April 25. Who needs casting agents when you have a chorus?