PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Aug. 16-22: Where the Buffalo Roam

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Aug. 16-22: Where the Buffalo Roam Buffalos will roam, and plows will speed.

David Mamet
David Mamet Photo by Aubrey Reuben

What I mean to say is there was a lot of activity this week concerning the two upcoming Broadway revivals of David Mamet. His American Buffalo — co-starring John Leguizamo and Cedric the Entertainer — will play the Belasco Theatre beginning Oct. 31. Another Mamet play, Speed-the-Plow, starring Raúl Esparza and Jeremy Piven, had been scheduled to play the Belasco, but it was announced Aug. 19 that Speed-the-Plow will now play the Barrymore, which had been scheduled to house the now-postponed Godspell, beginning Oct. 3.

More exciting would have been the decision to keep both plays at the Belasco and have them run in repertory. And with the three actors in each piece changing roles every night! Or completely changing plays! Hey, I'd pay to see Cedric the Entertainer in Speed-the-Plow's secretary role.

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Theater for a New Audience will no longer be getting a new theatre with the fanciest pedigree in town. The architect Frank Gehry, announced for the project in the BAM Cultural District in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, years ago, has made an exit. Gehry had collaborated with Hugh Hardy on the theatre building's initial design. Now Hardy will carry on alone.

According to the New York Times, Gehry himself didn't know of the change of plans until he was informed by the paper of the news. (A new experience for the world-famous architect, I have to imagine.) Jeffrey Horowitz, the theatre's founder and artistic director, "cited Mr. Gehry's busy schedule and the need to finish the design within a few months, a process that included a site change in June," according to the Times. ***

Off-Broadway's Signature Theatre Company began, with an Aug. 21 opening, its unusual venture of dedicating an entire season not to a playwright, as is usually its way, but to a company: the Negro Ensemble Company. The season opener is Leslie Lee's 1975 work The First Breeze of Summer, which comes just in time to catch the last breezes of summer. Starring is Tony Award winner Leslie Uggams. Another Tony winner, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, directed. Critics found the work long and unwieldy, but nonetheless fulsome and satisfying, and applauded the production. A good start to the season, most agreed.

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Charles Busch goes back and forth as far as starring and not starring in the plays he writes. For his latest opus, he decided to accept the role that he offered to himself. The new comic drama, The Third Story, directed by Carl Andress, will play a Sept. 16-Oct. 19 run at La Jolla Playhouse in California.

The story is described as "a realistic tale of a mother and son screenwriting team in the 1940s, a B-movie about the uneasy alliance between a mob queen and a frosty lady scientist and a Russian fairy tale in which a painfully shy Princess makes a dark pact with a mercurial old witch." Busch will play two characters, one called Baba Yaga, the other called Queenie Bartlett.

Who else in the theatre besides Busch still names characters things like Queenie?

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Actor David Pittu, who has been nominated for a Tony Award each of the past two seasons, will soon be showing off another of his skills at the Atlantic Theatre Company. He is the author of the coming comedy with music What's That Smell: The Music of Jacob Sterling, a portrait of a musical theatre artist you've never heard of. Not content to put such a property in a stranger's hands, he will also star in the piece, along with Peter Bartlett. It will play Atlantic Stage 2 Sept. 2-28.

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And Hair gets longer and longer and longer. Shakespeare in the Park has announced that its lavishly praised revival of the 1960s musical has been extended for the third time at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. It will now run until Sept. 14. When did the Park last have such a hit? You don't see them extending the Bard too often.

Rumors remain rife that the show will transfer to Broadway. Producers, however, aren't saying yes, but aren't saying no. Back in the Nixon era, I think they called that sort of response a "non-denial denial."

The cast of Signature Theatre Company's <i>The First Breeze of Summer</i>
The cast of Signature Theatre Company's The First Breeze of Summer Photo by Richard Termine
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