New Yorkers need comedy these days, and they're getting comedy: musical comedy, farce, satire, boulevard, you name it, it's on offer. Audiences have already found solace in the delirious pitch black Brechtian parody of Urinetown and the ditzy, ABBA-fed entertainment known as Mamma Mia!. The balm for this week can be found in the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, where a new production of Michael Frayn's Noises Off, directed by Jeremy Sams, opened on Nov. 1 to glorious notices. Though the classic comedy was seen on Broadway less than 20 years ago, theatregoers and critics seemed to have been aching for its return.
For weary urbanites who desire still more outlets for release, the coming week brings a host of opportunities. Clare Booth Luce's nasty-funny gaggle of gossips is unveiled on Nov. 8, when the Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of The Women opens. Three days later, Neil Simon's 45 Seconds From Broadway — which, like Noises Off, mines and revels in the denizens of the theatre world—is officially open for business.
Off-Broadway, meanwhile, will see the curtain go up at the Public Theater to reveal Elaine Stritch and nobody else. One would imagine that an autobiographical solo by Stritch would probably contain a laugh or two. The same day, John Patrick Shanley's scorching Where's My Money?, featuring some of the most lacerating humor of the season, opens at Manhattan Theatre Club.
One other comedy was due to unfold next week, but postponed its opening night to Dec. 2 when star John Leguizamo tore a hamstring muscle. The actor's latest one-man show, Sexaholix...a love story, was scheduled to bow on Nov. 4. He resumed performing the night after being taken to the hospital. While in the emergency room, he may have run into Craig Bierko and Nathan Lane, two other ailing marquee names. Bierko ruptured one of his vocal cords when he was accidentally hit in the larynx during a fight scene on opening night of Thou Shalt Not. He's been out of the show since and hopes to return next week. Lane, meanwhile, was not the victim of some freak accident; his titanic role in The Producers simply wore him down, day by day, week by week, until he was diagnosed with a polyp on his left vocal cord. He is now home, saying nothing, until his voice returns.
Responding to the sacrifices being made by policemen, firemen and servicemen, the theatre is returning to some charitable traditions of yesteryear. The Worth Street Theater Company's intentions can be easily read in the nostalgic title of its new ongoing revue, TriBeCa Playhouse Stage-Door Canteen. The variety show began on Monday, Oct. 22, and is open to the public but is intended to entertain any and all rescue workers at Ground Zero. It will continue every Monday for at least four weeks and perhaps longer. The talent on hand is considerable. The line-up on Oct. 29 was particularly choice: Tony winner Kristin Chenoweth and The Full Monty's Annie Golden. A far more ambitious undertaking will be the new Broadway division of the United Services Organization (USO) and the Armed Forces Entertainment (AFE). The outfit — which will feature stars such as Savion Glover, Sherie Rene Scott, Alice Ripley and Patrick Wilson, under the direction of Daisy Prince and musical direction of Jason Robert Brown — will perform from Dec. 12 to Dec. 23 at U.S. and Allied forces military bases and installations around the Mediterranean and in Turkey, where troops engaged in the new war on terrorism are preparing to enter Afghanistan. According to producer David Obele, this is the first USO Broadway division to ship out since Vietnam.