The most anticipated play of the fall, Richard Greenberg's Take Me Out, opened at the Public Theater on Sept. 5, after a run at London's Donmar Warehouse and the publication of as many interviews as the usually-agoraphobic playwright has given since he broke out in 1988 with Eastern Standard. The show has attracted a lot of attention for its provocative plot: a superstar baseball player unexpectedly comes out at a press conference, unleashing a host of repercussions.
All that ballyhoo didn't prevent New York Times critic Ben Brantley from trotting out the usual adjectives he tags to Greenberg, words like "unsatisfying" and "frustrating." (One gets the notion that Brantley, despite being exposed to a new Greenberg play about every six months, has never worked out why he's so flummoxed by the writer's work—he just is.) The Public didn't sit around waiting for Big Ben's word, however. A one-month extension was announced the day of the opening. Look for further extensions and maybe even a transfer.
Labor Day has passed, summer is gone and theatre folk are back in town in back in business. And so, comes a flurry of announcements.
I'm Not Rappaport, the Herb Gardener revival starring Judd Hirsch and Ben Vereen that has struggled to expand its audience in the days leading up to the historically lean weeks of September, finally gave up the ghost, after nearly a month of week-to week extensions. It will close on Sept. 8.
Holding the door open for Judd and company as they exit will be Paul Newman, who will return to Broadway for the first time in nearly 30 years in Our Town. The production, directed by James Naughton, has been stalking the Booth since closing at the Westport Country Playhouse this past June. The limited run will play nine months. Dates are to be announced. The poor Roundabout Theatre Company, which has already had to drop two of its 2002-03 productions, suffered another blow this week. Due to scheduling conflicts, Natasha Richardson will not be appearing in Miss Julie on Broadway this season, and the company is seeking another actress, possibly Rachel Weisz, for the title role in the August Strindberg play. Philip Seymour Hoffman remains with the staging, however, directed by David Leaveux and translated by Richard Nelson.
Hilary Swank, who has been sniffing around Broadway for a while, is in negotiations to play Annie Sullivan in an upcoming Broadway revival of The Miracle Worker. If the project comes to pass, it would be the second Anne Bancroft role, after The Graduate, to be reinterpreted on the Great White Way. Bancroft won a Tony, and later an Oscar, for creating the part of Sullivan. A new mounting of Two for the Seesaw anyone?
My God! The great white hope of the American musical theatre, Adam Guettel, has finally completed another musical! Guettel was hailed as the next coming after Floyd Collins opened Off Broadway at Playwrights Horizons in 1996. A couple years later he presented the "non-narrative song cycle," Saturn Returns, at the Public Theater, but since then, he has bided his time contributing the odd tune to Audra McDonald's albums and forever working on a new show called The Light in the Piazza.
Well, there aren't set dates yet, but The Light in the Piazza will premiere in 2003 at the Intiman Theatre in Seattle. The story, based on a novella by Mississippi-born writer Elizabeth Spencer, is a fairy tale romance about a mentally challenged American woman's love affair with an Italian man in Florence. The musical was intended to be workshopped at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1999 and produced at the Goodman Theater in the first few years of the millennium. However, Guettel withdrew himself "due to time constraints inherent in the property he is developing." Alfred Uhry was the librettist at the time, and not much was heard about the show until earlier this year, when bookwriting duties were assumed by Craig Lucas, who seems to have lit a flame under the slow moving Guettel.
Finally, the cast members of Contact, which closed on Sept. 1, lost no time in finding new work. Alan Campbell will be one of the inhabitants of Dublin, MO, the setting of Lanford Wilson's seriocomic play, Book of Days, making its New York debut this fall at the Signature Theatre Company. And Charlotte d'Amboise moves to Chicago to once again play Roxie Hart. She will begin on Sept. 17. And don't think Charlotte will be lazing around for those two weeks in between. She and her husband, Terrence Mann, will star in a production of Anne Nelson's The Guys Sept. 11-12 for the Carolina Arts Festival.
—By Robert Simonson