PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 5-12: Shades of Gray

ICYMI   PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 5-12: Shades of Gray The body of actor and monologuist Spalding Gray was found on March 9. Though he had gone missing on Jan. 10, and most colleagues and fans had long since reconciled themselves to the likelihood that the ending wouldn't be a good one, it was still a shock to hear the grim and joltingly frank details—how the beloved and admired artist was pulled from the East River waters off Greenpoint, Brooklyn; his subsequent identification through dental records at the city Medical Examiner's Office. The chill that quickly spread through the bones of the theatre community was as cold as the harbor waters that bore Gray for two wintery months.

Gray was one of those artists—like Richard Foreman, Woody Allen and Bobby Short—whose work and person seemed to be woven into of the city's cultural fabric. His ground-breaking work in confessional monologues launched a fertile genre and engendered generations of autobiographical solo artists who still routinely populate New York's theatrical calendar. His quirks, his obsessions, his dark and ironic sense of humor, his unlimited capacity for self-involvement all matched similar traits held by the city, if not in the specifics, then in general character.

Anyone who witnessed even one of Gray's monologues, or spotted his uncomfortable figure—eyes shifting, shoulders hunched, feet shuffling—at a public event, knew that Gray wrestled with his share of demons. Still, in light of his long career, and his recent, slightly sunnier works, such as Morning, Noon and Night (about the joys of family life), one had begun to suspect that some of the neuroticism was put on for effect. Sadly, such suppositions now seem like so much wishful thinking. A 2001 car accident in Ireland left Gray with a fractured skull and hip, months of pain and physical therapy and, apparently, a relentless depression. He often spoke of finding solace in being close to water, and, in the end, his last moments were likely on the deck of the Staten Island ferry.

Gray's work, which survives in films and in published form, will live on. But the words will now unavoidably be viewed through the lense of this last chapter—his darkest—in a very public living autobiography.

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Manhattan Theatre Club will turn to playwright Donald Margulies again next season, when it produces the writer's new play Brooklyn Boy at Broadway's Biltmore Theatre. MTC is giving Margulies' Sight Unseen its Broadway premiere this spring. The new work, to star Adam Arkin and be directed by Daniel Sullivan, will begin in January. ***

Peter Krause, of "Six Feet Under" fame, will star in the Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of Arthur Miller's drama After the Fall, set to begin previews June 25 at the American Airlines Theatre towards an opening on July 29. Krause will play the lead role of lawyer Quentin, historically viewed as a stand-in for author Miller. The "Marilyn Monroe" part has not been cast.

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In other casting news, Christina Applegate — of "Married with Children" fame — has landed the role of Charity Hope Valentine, the Sweet Charity part created by four-time Tony Award winner Gwen Verdon. Variety reports that the musical revival will open on Broadway April 21, 2005, after tryouts in Chicago, Boston and another city. As previous front-runners included Jenna Elfman, Marisa Tomei and Jane Krakowski, the marquee people may want to take their time spelling "Applegate" out in lights. Barry and Fran Weissler will co-produce the production with Clear Channel Entertainment. Walter Bobbie will direct.

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Four-foot-six actor Peter Dinklage's stature has grown, as it were, in the last year. He had always found work in an assortment of downtown theatre productions, but the splash he made in the 2003 films "The Station Agent" and "Elf" have won him the title role in a fall production of Richard III at the Public Theater. Peter de Bois will direct.

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When recently asked if people ever inquire about a Broadway revival Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Edward Albee sighed, "Contantly." Well, they can stop asking. A new Broadway mounting, the first in nearly 30 years, has been slated for the 2004-05 season. Jonathan Pryce was been named the new George, causing all of the theatre to instantly utter in unison the fateful words: "Who's Martha?" Stay tuned.

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