No wonder everyone in the New York theatre community seems to have a cold, or is getting one, or is getting over one. Anybody who tried to take in all the new shows which opened last week is a likely candidate for the sick bed, the victim of acute exhaustion. One would think it was the last week of April or something.
Critics, producers and fans most likely began the week at Broadway's Dame Edna: The Royal Tour or CSC's Off-Broadway revival of John Osborne's Look Back in Anger, both of which opened on Oct. 17. A.R. Gurney's Ancestral Voices at Lincoln Center Theatre officially opened the following evening. Then came Wednesday, where theatregoers had to choose between the unveilings of Edwin Sanchez's Barefoot Boy with Shoes On at Primary Stages, David Mamet's The Water Engine and Mr. Happiness at the Atlantic Theatre Company and Dmitry Lipkin's Cranes, the latest from director Scott Elliot and The New Group.
On Oct. 21 and 22, one could opt for, respectively, the first preview of the Roundabout Theatre Company's Broadway revival of N. Richard Nash's The Rainmaker, starring Woody Harrelson, and the first preview of Dinner with Friends, playwright Donald Margulies' latest, at the Variety Arts.
Of course, the big opening of the week was the Thursday bow of Broadway's Saturday Night Fever, which doesn't lack for advance box office or advance press. The critic-proof musical did not please the critics; of course, nobody really expected it to, no more than they expect it the vacate to leave the Minskoff anytime soon.
That show's star, James Carpinello, was discovered in John C. Russell's Stupid Kids, produced last season by the WPA Theatre, which has quietly been going through its own back stage drama these last few months. In July, almost without notice, the WPA lost is longtime home on West 23rd Street. Since then, artistic director Kyle Rennick has been searching for new digs, determined to keep the light on at the former artistic home of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. Rennick told Playbill On-Line that he plans to operate WPA in a rented swing space until the company secures its own building and a permanent home. Once that theatre is found, WPA's opening production this season will be Jonathan Sheffer's Blood on the Dining Room Floor, which is based on a story by Gertrude Stein. The play was originally meant to be last season's WPA season closer but "many factors conspired to postpone it," Rennick said.
As for the troupe's former home, Little Dragon 23, which owns the space, is said to have broad plans to remodel and open a new theatre there.
While Rennick searches for a home, The Unexpected Man has given up looking for a leading man. Talk of the Yasmina Reza play's arrival in New York has been going on for over a year. Reports first had Man playing Broadway, then Off-Broadway, then Broadway again and finally Off-Broadway at the Gramercy under the auspices of the Roundabout. The female star for the two-person vehicle -- Eileen Atkins -- was always in place, but the producers could not find a male lead for love or money. Michael Gambon, the star of the London production, reportedly wanted too much the latter. Nick Nolte was in and then out. Finally, the powers that be gave up. Martin Sherman's Rose starring Olympia Dukakis is expected to take Unexpected's place at the Gramercy.
Due south of New York, the Barrymore Awards, which honor Philadelphia Theatre, were announced on Oct. 18, and emerging as the big winner was Floyd Collins, the little musical that simply will not go away. Back in early 1996, the Adam Guettel-Tina Landau show, about the unlucky title spelunker and the 1925 media frenzy that surrounded his entrapment and eventual death in a Kentucky cave, opened at Playwrights Horizons and was praised -- though not enough for the show to transfer to a commercial Off-Broadway or Broadway run or for it to win many awards (though it did claim that year's Lucille Lortel Award for best Off-Broadway musical).
Since then, it seems, the rest of the nation has set out to show New York where it erred. The Prince Music Theatre's production of Floyd Collins took away trophies for best production of a musical, best direction (for Landau), best actor, best supporting actor and best lighting. A month ago, meanwhile, the Goodman Theatre mounting of the musical netted seven Joseph Jefferson Award nominations, including nods for best production of a musical and best director (again, Landau). When the Jeffs are announced on Nov. 8, don't be surprised to hear Landau and Guettel's names again.
Finally, playwright Arthur Laurents' career is getting as exhaustive an examination as a dramatist can hope for this side of a Signature Theatre Company season. A revival of his collaboration with Stephen Sondheim and Richard Rodgers, Do I Hear a Waltz?, opened at New Jersey's George Street Playhouse recently, and Laurents can look forward to staging of two other long neglected works this fall: The Time of the Cuckoo, starring Debra Monk, at Lincoln Center Theater, and Home of the Brave, starring Robert Sella, at Jewish Repertory Theatre.
The only other artist receiving more attention this season, vis-a-vis New York-area productions? Laurents' old partner, Sondheim, with cabaret singer David Campbell soon to star in the early work, Saturday Night, at Second Stage.
--By Robert Simonson