PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Aug. 30-Sept. 5: Three for Nine

ICYMI   PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Aug. 30-Sept. 5: Three for Nine
The Roundabout Theatre Company's Nine, last season's Tony-winning musical revival, has its new cast.

Well, most of it anyway. With the exception of Mary Stuart Masterson, the original stars will be history as of Oct. 5, when Antonio Banderas, Chita Rivera and Jane Krakowski all leave the spa. (Laura Benanti already departed.) With the long-running Cabaret set to close on Nov. 2, the Roundabout probably has some notion of turning Nine into a similar Broadway mainstay. The company kept the Kander and Ebb revival going for six years with some creative, high profile and generally first-rate recasting, using a mix of talented television and film stars and solid stage talent.

It looks as though the Roundabout is taking the same approach to Nine, its best reviewed musical since Cabaret. Tested musical actress Rebecca Luker was brought in to replace Benanti. Jenna Elfman lends some television star wattage to the role of mistress Carla, just as the exiting Krakowksi did. The next Liliane La Fleur, Rivera's part, hasn't been announced. But for the central role of filmmaker Guido Contini, the nonprofit turned to John Stamos, who upped his stage acting credibility by putting in a 2002 stint as the Cabaret's Emcee. Which might prove a good modus operandi for future casting—keep that Rolodex of Kit Kat Klub alumni handy.

For his first year as artistic director of Off-Broadway's Classic Stage Company, Brian Kulick is taking the theatre's name very much to heart. You can't get more classic than medieval history plays and Greek drama. Kulick himself will stage The Mysteries, drawn from the Wakefield and York mystery plays seen in Middles Ages England. The Greco-flavored drama will be provided by playwright Mac Wellman, composer Cynthia Hopkins and choreographer Annie-B Parson, who created Antigone: As Played and Danced by Three Fates on the Way to Becoming Three Graces. The season's third attraction will focus of that other great period in theatrical history: Elizabethan England. The "First Look Festival," a series of plays anchored by star performers, will run Oct. 1-12 and include Marlowe's The Jew of Malta with Ron Liebman, Arden of Faversham by Anonymous with Frances McDormand, Jonson's Volpone with F. Murray Abraham and Shakespeare's Richard III with John Turturro.

The Signature Theatre Company, the Off-Broadway troupe that dedicates each season to the work of one scribe, this week began its study of what must be the most unorthodox honoree in its history: Bill Irwin. Irwin has for two decades been established as perhaps the American stage's preeminent physical clown. His works, such as Largely New York and Fool Moon, are, of course, of his creation; still, he is not strictly thought of as a writer—not, at least, in the way Arthur Miller and Edward Albee (other Signature subjects) are. Also distinguishing the season is that Irwin is the first Signature playwright to enact his own work. Furthermore, the season is not at all an overview of his career but a line-up of completely new world premieres. He began on Sept. 3 with The Harlequin Studies, his exploration of the classic harlequin character in theatre history.

The season will pose some interesting future questions for the Signature. After Irwin, who, exactly, can not be considered a playwright worthy of a year-long tribute? Karen Finley? Spalding Gray? Jackie Mason? Every performance artist or other solo talent who ever created a text for themselves now seems to be a viable candidate. But Sandra Bernhard will have to wait for her moment in the sun. For the next couple seasons, however, things get pretty standard again: Paul Vogel for 2004-05 and August Wilson for 2005-06.

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