PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 24-30: Doing the Donmar Shuffle

ICYMI   PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 24-30: Doing the Donmar Shuffle Why should American producers waste their time nurturing and developing shows when there's always the new Donmar Warehouse season to raid for trans-Atlantic transfers? This week, mere moments after outgoing artistic director Sam Mendes announced his valedictory 2002 season, word spread that not one, not two, but six Donmar productions would soon bow in New York. And three of the six cases involved shows the producers had not even seen yet.

Why should American producers waste their time nurturing and developing shows when there's always the new Donmar Warehouse season to raid for trans-Atlantic transfers? This week, mere moments after outgoing artistic director Sam Mendes announced his valedictory 2002 season, word spread that not one, not two, but six Donmar productions would soon bow in New York. And three of the six cases involved shows the producers had not even seen yet.

Of course, two of those three 2002 offerings were virtually impossible to resist: Chekhov's Uncle Vanya and Shakespeare's Twelfth Night in repertory, starring Simon Russell Beale as Vanya and Malvolio, and (very likely) Nicole Kidman as Yelena and Olivia. Anglophilic producers Anita Waxman and Elizabeth Williams (The Real Thing, Noises Off) snatched the double-bill up, with promises to bring it to Broadway in early 2003 (rather bravely, too, given that Broadway has seen major revivals of both plays in the last few years).

According to Variety, Waxman and Williams also want to bring over Christopher Hampton's Tales from Hollywood and David Mamet's Boston Marriage, both Donmar projects. Phyllida Lloyd would direct the latter.

Richard Greenberg's new play Take Me Out was destined to reach Manhattan from the get-go. The drama about sports and race will have its premiere at the Donmar in summer 2002, and then travel in the fall to Off-Broadway's Public Theater, which is co producing it.

Finally, reports have the Roundabout Theatre Company—which continues to reap the benefits of having brought in the Donmar's Cabaret — will move the English powerhouse's revival of Maury Yeston's Nine across the sea in spring 2003, possibly putting it at Studio 54 with David Leveaux directing. The Roundabout has made no official announcement about any of this, however, including the rumored casting of Antonio Banderas in the lead. This must all make Sam Mendes feel pretty good about the work he's done at the Donmar over the past decade. And well he should. Audiences in the UK and U.S. are familiar with what gold his tenure has spun out, including Cabaret, The Blue Room, The Real Thing, Electra, Passion Play and many lesser successes. The question of who will replace him as artistic director has already inspired as much speculation in the UK as did the recent competition for the leadership of the Royal National Theatre.

The Donmar's not the only London company sending product over. The New York Post reported that the West End production of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, starring movie heartthrob Brendan Fraser, will reach Broadway this spring. The Cort Theatre will be its home and Bill Kenwright will produce. Anthony Page directs. However, Kenwright's office has not confirmed. Another possible arrival, Medea starring Fiona Shaw, will land at Brooklyn Academy of Music and then tour the country. If all works out, the show will be part of BAM's 2002 Next Wave Festival.

Producers, perhaps fueled by extra large Thanksgiving feasts, were also making decisions left and right about homegrown projects. The Mark Taper Forum and friends finally went official on the fall Broadway bow of the revamped Flower Drum Song. Meanwhile, David Richenthal said he might wait until the autumn to bring in the Goodman Theater's revival of Long Day's Journey Into Night. Edward Albee's latest, The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? jumped from the Belasco to the Golden and netted Bill Pullman and Mercedes Ruehl for the cast.

Bea Arthur's one-person autobiographical show (with songs), which has been touring the country, has booked the Booth Theatre for 48 performances beginning in late January. And Elaine Stritch's one person autobiographical show (with songs!), which has conquered Off Broadway, inched closer to a 70-performance run on Broadway. More, the movie-inspired musical Urban Cowboy has evidently committed to the Ambassador Theatre, where Hedda Gabler has decided to throw in the towel on Jan. 13.

The Court Theatre has found a clever way to give its current season a national tone, while remaining close to its Chicago roots. The company will, in a special arrangement, send its patrons to the U.S. tour of Michael Frayn's Copenhagen at Chicago's Shubert Theatre. Later it will offer discounted tickets for the Chicago stop of the road show of David Auburn's Proof, also at the Shubert. Both plays have a special meaning for the Court, which is located on the campus of the University of Chicago. Noted the press office: "the Manhattan Project achieved the first self-sustaining, controlled, nuclear chain reaction" at U. of C, under the direction of Enrico Fermi and his team of scientists. As for Proof, Auburn is a U. of C. Alumnus, and the playwright set the drama on the back porch of a Hyde Park house and made one of its characters, a university professor. Give that marketing director a raise.

Finally, New York City has its first drama about the events of Sept. 11. It will be staged by the Bat Theatre Company, located in the Flea Theatre on White Street in Tribeca, which, being just blocks from Ground Zero, was hard hit by the terrorist attacks. The play, written within the past month by first-time playwright Anne Nelson, is called The Guys. Jim Simpson, artistic director of the Bat, prodded Nelson into created the work and will direct. Soon after Simpson booked the two-person show, his wife, Sigourney Weaver expressed a desire to play a part. She then gave her sometime film co-star Bill Murray a call to play the other role. The Guys will play only a handful of workshop performances from Dec. 6 to Dec. 20, but don't be surprised if it returns next year.