PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 15-21: C'est La Guerre

ICYMI   PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 15-21: C'est La Guerre And then there were -- what, 87? Martin Guerre, the highly touted, long-in-gestation, Cameron Mackintosh-backed, Boublil Schonberg musical, gave up its hope of finding a vacant Broadway house in time for making a New York bow this season, leaving the number of shows currently vying for Gotham theatre real estate to mere dozens. (I exaggerate here, but you get the idea.)

And then there were -- what, 87? Martin Guerre, the highly touted, long-in-gestation, Cameron Mackintosh-backed, Boublil Schonberg musical, gave up its hope of finding a vacant Broadway house in time for making a New York bow this season, leaving the number of shows currently vying for Gotham theatre real estate to mere dozens. (I exaggerate here, but you get the idea.)

While the announcement a few weeks ago that the new revival of Finian's Rainbow -- which boasts no stars and no powerhouse producer or director -- would not reach Broadway this season wasn't all that surprising, the idea that Mackintosh couldn't muscle his way in seemed odd. Hence, many in the Broadway community speculated, by word and in print, that the musical's poor reception in the regions influenced Mackintosh's decision. Others suggested that the season was already too laden with new musicals for Guerre to stand a chance, Tony-wise or otherwise.

For those who want to judge the situation themselves, Martin Guerre, lest anyone forget, still lives in these United Stated. Its last two tour dates are Seattle (Jan. 22-Feb. 12) and Los Angeles (Feb. 16 April 8).

Apart from the fact that it doesn't expect a visit from Martin Guerre this spring, Broadway exhibited little change this week. Without a doubt, the chess game will begin afresh in days to come, but for now, the struggling Wrong Mountain and The Price march on valiantly, Copenhagen still waits patiently, but confidently, for a house, and Off-Broadway's Trudy Blue and, perhaps, Dirty Blonde, yet hope to move uptown. A Moon for the Misbegotten, now playing Chicago, is still expected at the Walter Kerr; although that theatre's current resident, Waiting in the Wings, is showing few signs of looking for a new home, so perhaps the O'Neill play has quietly decided to arrive elsewhere.

The New York debut of Stephen Sondheim's earliest work, Saturday Night, started with a bit of a jerk, as Second Stage suddenly moved its first preview from Jan. 20 to Jan. 21. Written in 1954, Saturday Night was meant to be Sondheim's initial foray on Broadway, and predates West Side Story. It was never produced due to the untimely death of its producer. Not until 1997 did the work see light of day, when it received a staging at London's Bridewell Theatre. The current production is primarily due to the show's success last summer at Chicago's Pegasus Players. (As a side note, Saturday Night is using in its ad campaign the same image of a shadowy dancing couple, circa 1920's, employed in the Royal National Theatre ads for the recent Juliet Stevenson revival of Private Lives. Are we to think Sondheim was very Noel Coward in his early days?) There was news about another Sondheim show. (But isn't there always?). Matthew Warchus, known to U.S. audiences for his direction of Art and the upcoming True West, is in talks to stage the projected Roundabout Theatre Company revival of the seminal 1971 musical, Follies. The show will be seen in about a year-and-a-half's time at the Roundabout's new home, the Selwyn, still under construction.

The last production of Peter Altman's long tenure at Boston's Huntington Theatre Company has been named: August Wilson's latest, King Hedley II, will have its East Coast premiere there, May 19-June 18. In fall 2000, new artistic director Nicholas Martin will take up the reins at the company. Martin knows almost everyone in the theatre and has, of late, been piloting high- profile productions everywhere. His first season is expected to be a lulu, populated with at least a couple shows he has recently mounted in New York or Williamstown. These include Sidney Kingsley's Dead End (seen at Williamstown with Hope Davis, Marian Seldes, Campbell Scott and Robert Sean Leonard, who have all been invited to recreate their roles), The Matchmaker starring Andrea Martin; Christopher Durang's praised Betty's Summer Vacation, which never found a longer life Off-Broadway; Camino Real with Ethan Hawke; and, possibly, one of Martin's pet new projects, such as Richard II, with Leonard, or Macbeth with Victor Garber. No announcements have been made.

Jon Jory, who shares with Martin a long tenure at a single regional theatre, revealed he would step down at the Actors Theatre of Louisville in September, after more than 30 years at the Kentucky company. Though the news was unexpected, Jory deadpanned that he "can't stay forever." Under his watch, Marsha Norman, Donald Margulies, John Pielmeier, Arthur Kopit, Kevin Kling, Romulus Linney, Howard Korder, Stephen Dietz and Naomi Wallace received premieres, the Humana Festival of New American Plays rose to international prominence, and the 10-minute play festival became a phenomenon copied by theatre troupes, big and small, across the nation.

Derek Anson Jones, director of Wit, died on Jan. 17, cut down just as his career was at its peak. Jones, an old friend of playwright Margaret Edson, helped usher her Pulitzer-Prize winning play through many years and productions. The drama is still playing at the Union Square Theatre in New York. Ironically, on Jan. 18, just one day after Jones' passing, Kathleen Chalfant reopened Wit at the Geffen Playhouse in L.A.

Finally, though the producers of Swing! may be hopping mad at New York Times critic Ben Brantley (in response to his mixed review of the Broadway revue, the moneymen have written angry letters to the newspaper, reported the New York Post), the producers of Hedwig and the Angry Inch couldn't possibly be anything but delighted. "Do we really have to say goodnight to Hedwig?" asked Brantley in a Jan. 21 review of the two-year-old show, which is set to close on Jan. 30. Well, on Jan. 20, the answer to that one was yes. Now, who knows?