PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 15-21: Two Shakes

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 15-21: Two Shakes New Public Theater artistic director Oskar Eustis only started work on Jan. 15, but his reign has already produced a significant improvement. For the first time in four years, the Public will this summer produce two stagings of Shakespeare at Central Park's Delacorte Theatre. And both of them will be actual works by Shakespeare, as opposed to Chekhov, Wilder or Comden and Green.

It was a sad day in 2002 when the company announced that theatregoers had a grand choice of one show at which to while away the summer nights. The runs of the 2002 through 2004 attractions were longer, but one couldn't help but feel there had been a diminishment in the city's cultural offerings.

Public Theater executive director Mara Manus told the New York Times that increased donations will allow two productions this coming summer. "Financially, we're in a much better place," explained Manus. Still, one had to assume that Eustis was solidly behind the push to restore the traditional double bill. The two shows will be the long-ago-announced A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by George C. Wolfe, and the new addition As You Like It, helmed by Mark Lamos. And here's the icing: the two plays will help celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Public Theater.

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In other Public news, it was revealed that Ben Stiller is in discussions to star in the upcoming Public Theater staging of the new Neil LaBute play This Is How It Goes, according to a spokesperson for The Public. Movie stars can't seem to get enough of LaBute. Calista Flockhart was coaxed back to New York to act in bash. Paul Rudd and Gretchen Mol appeared in The Shape of Things in both London and Gotham. Sigourney Weaver and Liev Schreiber graced The Mercy Seat. And the current Fat Pig featured the New York stage debuts of Jeremy Piven and Keri Russell. Perhaps they just recognize a Hollywood homie when they see one.

*** Harvey Fierstein opened his run in Broadway's Fiddler on the Roof on Jan. 20. Most of the critics were pretty well tickled, even if the New York Times said he had too much personality (which is a bad thing for a Broadway headliner, right?). Also liked was Andrea Martin as Golda. As long as the duo stay around, it would seem, the production will have a life.

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Do you like American musicals, or the British sort? Or do you prefer a mix of the two. That's what Olivier Awards voters will have to decide between now and Feb. 20. For the Best Musical category features something from columns A, B and C. The nominees are Mary Poppins, The Producers and The Woman in White. The last is British. from its composer (Andrew Lloyd Webber) to its star (Michael Crawford) to its source material (Wilkie Collins). The West End upstart The Producers, meanwhile, is as Broadway as a product can get. And then there's Mary Poppins, which has an American mommy (Disney) and an English daddy (Cameron Mackintosh) and a story embraced by both shores. A win for The Producers would give Mel Brooks a new reason to strut about. But Poppins and Woman could really use the laurels, as something to wave about when they come to New York.