PLAYBILL.COM’S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Feb. 25-March 3: The Schoenfeld Shuffle

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM’S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Feb. 25-March 3: The Schoenfeld Shuffle
 
Taken together, Broadway's producers and landlords this week resembled that nerdy kid from junior high home room who spent all this time hunched over one of those hand-held Fifteen Puzzles, shifting white numbered squares back and forth until they’re in the right order. (“Maybe if I just move this one up here and that one over to the left…”)
Cynthia Nixon in Rabbit Hole.
Cynthia Nixon in Rabbit Hole. Photo by Joan Marcus

The activity centered on the Schoenfeld Theatre, which has sat empty since Chita Rivera danced off the stage a couple weeks ago. Manhattan Theatre Club was said to have wanted the house as a hutch for its critical hit Rabbit Hole , but it wasn’t to be. Instead, it extended the David Lindsay-Abaire play until April 9, bumping back Conor McPherson ’s Shining City to an April 20 start date. Word also had it that the Atlantic Theater Company had a lock on the space for its critical hit, Martin McDonagh ’s comically violent The Lieutenant of Inishmore , which opened on Feb. 27 to cries of “bloody good fun” and other like critical clichés. But that wasn’t to be either. Instead, the producers of The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial gave notice at the Lyceum and moved their act to the Schoenfeld. Inishmore wasted no more than six hours in taking the abandoned Lyceum for itself. And so, the Broadway puzzle of spring 2006 was finally cracked.

All this last-minute shifting means that May will have no less than six Broadway openings, twice as many as last year. That’s over the course of only 10 days, pals. And you thought April was exhausting!

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Inishmore wasn’t the only show to rake in the raves this week. Success rained all over town, as critics found an inordinate number of reasons to be happy. [title of show] , a scrappy, low-fi, little show about two guys trying to put together a scrappy, low-fi little show (enacted by Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell , the two guys who actually put together the show), became everybody’s favorite hyper-meta, lower-case-title-in-brackets show since Melissa James Gibson ’s [sic] . (Hey, who wouldn’t like a show that mentions Playbill.com?) It extended a couple weeks, and beefed up the profile of the New York Musical Theatre Festival , from which it first emerged in 2004.

John Patrick Shanley ’s Defiance didn’t quite get Doubt -caliber notices when it opened at Manhattan Theatre Club on Feb. 28. But by any other measure, the reception was rosy, with many critics thinking this second play in a proposed Shanley trilogy as socko as the first. The week ended with the opening of Hedda Gabler at BAM , with Cate Blanchett as the nervous Norwegian society wife. Many critics carped about the Australian production’s sped-up pace and inconsistency of tone, but when you’re in love—as most reviewers seemed to be with Cate—what does all that matter? Thumbs up for Blanchett and her blunderbuss!

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Hey, weren’t we just talking about Hedda Gabler ? Let’s talk about it again. Richard Eyre ’s London production of the Ibsen play won for Best Revival at the 2006 Olivier Awards, announced Feb. 26. Eyre won a prize himself and Eve Best , the Hedda, won for Best Actress. Americans can take pride that Brian Dennehy won the Best Actor trophy for repeating his praised performance in Death of a Salesman . Billy Elliot prevailed as Best Musical, and the evergreen Guys and Dolls was Outstanding Musical Production.

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New York’s favorite Shakespearean stud, Liev Schreiber , will bring the Bard to the boards one again this summer. He’ll be Macbeth in a new Central Park production, directed by Moises Kaufman . It will be the first offering at the Delacorte, followed by the previously announced production of Brecht’s Mother Courage starring Meryl Streep . So all around, war will be getting a pretty bad rap in midtown. But that’s nothing new. The 2003 Delacorte offering, Henry V (with Schreiber), and last summer’s musical Two Gentlemen of Verona , weren’t what you’d call patriotic.

And speaking of unpatriotic, what about that new Craig Wright play that Northlight Theatre in Chicago announced it would premiere in early 2007? The story is about “three old friends on a hunting trip [who] reveal long-held political beliefs and inflict fresh wounds. Politics get personal and loyalties are tested as three trained killers (of little birds) come face-to-face with the most important question of our time: not `Is violence necessary,’ but, rather, `Can violence be beautiful?’” Now, Wright couldn’t have possibly written it in the few weeks since the recent incident in which Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot his friend while the two were out hunting wildfowl, could he? Nah! Like Kushner and Homebody/Kabal , he’s just a lucky playwright blessed by timing.

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