PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Aug. 16-22: Fade to Black

ICYMI   PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Aug. 16-22: Fade to Black There was no "Theatre Week in Review" column last week. What there was was a power failure, which resulted in the biggest blackout in American history. Not only New York City, but states and communities throughout the northeast, midwest and Canada were afflicted.

The catastrophe, of course, affected the theatre (and, incidentally, theatre websites), which depends on small conveniences like lighting, air conditioning and working subways. All 23 Broadway shows, and scattered Off-Broadway productions lost their Thursday Aug. 14 performances, to the cost of $1 million, according to Variety. It was an unlooked-for curve ball for an industry that has in the past year already suffered an ongoing economic slump, a labor strike, and record snowfall.

By the time the lights went out Aug. 14, the TKTS booth in Times Square had sold 2,100 seats, according to a Theatre Development Fund spokesman. On Friday, power returned to the booth in Times Square early in the morning, and refunds were made beginning at 10 AM.

The crisis occurred at the middle of the 2003 New York International Fringe Festival, and, however scrappy the festival reputation may be, it canceled all shows for Aug. 14 and 15. The sacrificed shows were quickly rescheduled and a slate of new performances announced.

The lights went out on another show this past week, and perhaps for good. John Kander and Fred Ebb's The Visit gets my vote for the most luckless musical in recent theatre history. The hapless enterprise, which has been grasping for a New York forum for years, lost what seemed a guaranteed slot in the Public Theater's 2003-03 season. The long-scheduled production was scrapped following the withdrawal of two major investors, Jeffrey Seller and Kevin McCollum, it was reported. The show was once promised for Broadway, but that was when Angela Lansbury was attached as the star; when Lansbury left, that promise evaporated. Chicago's Goodman Theatre finally granted it a premiere in 2001, but Broadway still did not bite. Finally, the unusual arrangement with the Public was reached. But Off-Broadway productions can fall apart the same as Broadway ones, and this one did. And so it stands that Kander and Ebb, who created Chicago, the most famous musical of the moment, remain seemingly incapable of bringing any of their many new works-in-progress into Manhattan.

It was bound to happen. Once the starry cast (Jimmy Smits, Priscella Lopez, Daphne Rubin-Vega) of the McCarter Theatre production of Nilo Cruz's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Anna in the Tropics was announced, there were only days to count until prestige-loving commercial producers affixed themselves to the project. Roger Berlind and Daryl Roth are those producers, and they have plans to bring the work to Broadway. Variety also reported that Berlind and Roth have their eye on the upcoming revival of Craig Lucas' Reckless — at the Second Stage theatre in spring 2004 — starring Mary Louise Parker. Parker did nicely for the duo in Proof.

Off-Broadway's New Group announced its new season. The line-up will commence in December with Wallace Shawn's best known play, Aunt Dan and Lemon, directed by New Group artistic director Scott Elliot. The disturbing comedy concerns Lemon (short for Leonora), a sickly young girl living in London with her family, and her relationship with her brutally candid, Kissinger-worshipping Aunt Dan (short for Danielle).

P.S. 122, the downtown theatre institution, likewise announced its season, which will welcome back monologuist Spalding Gray and his latest autobiographical show, Life Interrupted. The work has a rocky history. Under a different title, Black Spot, it was scheduled to run at P.S 122 on Mondays during the fall of 2002. However, the entire run was canceled when the famously neurotic monologuist was checked into a mental hospital. Gray was found near his Sag Harbor, Long Island, home contemplating a jump from a local bridge. His wife, Kathy Russo, said that Gray has been suffering from depression since a 2001 head-on collision in Ireland. Ironically, Life Interrupted centers on the crash. Gray was celebrating his 60th birthday when traveling in Ireland in 2001. According to press materials, the crash happened on the day after the longest day of the year. The monologue also features bits on Irish culture, socialized medicine, a further operation in the U.S. and Gray's family's move into a bigger house—scheduled moving day: Sept. 11, 2001.