PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 27-Dec. 3: No Doubt About It

ICYMI   PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 27-Dec. 3: No Doubt About It Over the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, John Patrick Shanley's Doubt opened at Manhattan Theatre Club and quickly became the most-likely-to-be-fast-tracked play of the season. The veteran playwright's examination of moral conviction and moral uncertainty in a Bronx parochial school in the 1960s won across-the-board critical hosannahs when it debuted on Nov. 23, but even before that it was tagged by Broadway as a likely candidate for a swift Broadway transfer. An extension to Jan. 30 followed.

No announcement of a transfer has been broadcast, but at this point the only thing that would surprise the theatre crowd is if it didn't transfer. Broadway's new play line-up is none too hearty this season. So far, it's been a feast of revivals and one-person shows. Such fare does not a Best Play Tony win. There is Democracy, the deep dish political drama from Michael Frayn. A lot of critics liked it. But more critics liked Doubt. Also, Doubt's topic—sexual impropriety and self-examination in the Catholic Church—is very timely. Plus, Shanley is an American (Tony voter xenophobia—as strong a force as Tony voter Anglophilia—can never be discounted). And many might feel Shanley is long overdue in the honors department. The man has labored in the theatre for a quarter century and—as was pointed out in a recent New York Times Magazine profile—has yet to collect an award for his work, let alone a Tony (he has never been produced on Broadway).

There may be a final, more subconscious reason for Manhattan Theatre Club's sprinting Doubt to Broadway. A four-character drama; a set of sterling performances; some expert, unobtrusive direction; a five-letter, one-word title. Sound like another recent MTC-born Broadway success? Another Proof would do much to restore the company's recently tarnished luster.

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It took long enough for them to announce it, but this week Bob Boyett, Robert Fox, The Shubert Organization and The National Theatre fessed up that Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman, a hit at London's National, will open on Broadway at the Booth Theatre April 10, 2005. The Olivier Award-winning play will star Billy Crudup, Jeff Goldblum, Zeljko Ivanek and Michael Stuhlbarg. The show has long been anticipated for a New York berth, but has taken its time getting around to specifics. Perhaps Boyett, who has a first-dibs deal with the National, was waiting to see if his most recent royal transfer, Democracy, was received warmly. It was. This will be McDonagh's first visit to Broadway since 1999's The Lonesome West.

*** Pacific Overtures opened at the Roundabout Theatre Company on Dec. 2 to a mixed bag of reviews. It's the first Broadway revival for the ascetic, stylized 1976 musical about the 1853 opening of Japan, and the second Stephen Sondheim-John Weidman work (after last spring's Assassins) to get the full treatment by the Roundabout this year. Amon Miyamoto, who directed the exalted all-Japanese production of the work at the 2002 Lincoln Center Festival, directed.

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Off-Broadway, playwright Richard Nelson opened his latest, Rodney's Wife, at Playwright's Horizons. The text found Nelson returning to his two favorite topics: the sexually verboten and Americans behaving badly abroad. As is his want of late, Nelson piloted his own work. Reviews ranged from respectful to dismissive.

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Anna Paquin will star in the New York Vineyard Theatre premiere of Gina Gionfriddo's After Ashley, which wowed 'em at the 2004 Humana Festival of New American Plays. Of all the young Hollywood starlets who transfix the country's teenage female cineplex audiences, Paquin is the one who has shown the most ardent commitment to theatre work. No one-off, credibility-feeding stage slumming for her. She returns and returns again: in Rebecca Gilman's Glory of Living at MCC Theatre in 2001; in Kenneth Lonergan's This Is Our Youth in London in 2002; in Ensemble Studio Theatre's production of Paul Weitz's Roulette in early 2004, followed by Neil LaBute's The Distance From Here at MCC. It's an interesting route: first win your Oscar, then hone your stage chops. But who knows: that's probably the right road to a second Oscar.