PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, July 28-Aug. 3: Midsummer and Beyond

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, July 28-Aug. 3: Midsummer and Beyond
 
It's been a roller-coaster week at the Public Theater.
Daniel Sullivan
Daniel Sullivan Photo by Aubrey Reuben

While preparing for the first performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream, the second summer attraction at Central Park's Delacorte Theatre, director Daniel Sullivan, on July 31, fell through a trap on the Delacorte stage, suffering four fractured ribs and a collapsed lung in the incident. Sullivan is expected to make a speedy recovery and will return to rehearsals within a few days. However, Midsummer did cancel its first preview, which was scheduled for Aug. 7. (I'm sure, too, that a communal heart flutter traveled through the board and staff of Manhattan Theatre Club, which is under the care of Sullivan this season.)

The accident somewhat drew focus on what should have been the big Public Theater news of the week: the announcement of the 2007-08 season. The line-up has found room for new works from David Henry Hwang, Richard Nelson and Sam Shepard, as well as a production of Hamlet by The Wooster Group, directed by Elizabeth LeCompte and starring the vaunted Kate Valk among others.

Leigh Silverman will direct the Hwang premiere, called Yellow Face, a piece about the controversy stirred up when the playwright led the protest against the hiring of Jonathan Pryce in the original Broadway production of Miss Saigon. Richard Nelson's Conversations in Tusculum is lucky in its cast of Brian Dennehy, David Strathairn Maria Tucci. Set in the Rome of Julius Caesar, the play intends to speak to our own times in which "The country you love and the values it represents are being destroyed by a misguided leader."

Shepard himself will direct Stephen Rea in his new play, entitled Kicking a Dead Horse "about the myth of the West," — a subject not unknown to the playwright — "a Manhattan art dealer and a dead horse." The new season will also include the U.S premiere of Caryl Churchill's Drunk Enough to Say I Love You, which elliptically depicts the submissive relationship between Britain and America. (So, which is the country that has to be drunk to say they love the other?)

*** The on-again, off-again revival of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's Pal Joey — featuring a revised book by Richard Greenberg — went off, and then on again, this week, just to keep the sleepy summertime Broadway community on its toes.

Earlier in the week The New York Times reported that the revival, which was aiming for a spring 2008 debut starring Jersey Boys' Christian Hoff, had been postponed. Marc Platt had been set to produce. He told the Times that the postponement was for personal and professional, not financial, reasons. However, the Post reported that Platt had been unsuccessful in his search for a co-producer for the project.

Now many hours after, it was reported that the Roundabout Theatre Company might come to the rescue, presenting the revival at Studio 54 in the spring. Producer Platt told the Post, "If the Roundabout does the show, I welcome that, and I will do whatever is asked of me to help them make it happen."

The Roundabout did a similar rescue job with the recent The Pajama Game, another revival that floated about for a while looking for a commercial life on Broadway before landing at the nonprofit instead. That story had a happy ending; Pajama Game was a huge hit.

***

If Kevin Kline keeps accepting acting gigs at this rate, he's going to loose that hard-won reputation as a reluctant performer. It looks as through the star of recent productions of King Lear, Mother Courage and Henry IV will head a new revival of Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac on Broadway in the fall, a role that will give him full opportunity to indulge his more hammier comic instincts.

A casting notice revealed that David Leveaux will direct the romantic classic about the lover-warrior whose nose gets in the way of his happiness. The production, which will begin performances in October, will feature a translation and adaptation by Anthony Burgess. The New York Post reported that Kline would play opposite Jennifer Garner, of TV's "Alias."

***

Finally, London will be seeing Jonathan Larson's musical Rent again this fall. The show never had the life in the West End that it's had on Broadway. It played a mere 18-month run at the Shaftesbury, with Anthony Rapp, Adam Pascal, Wilson Jermaine Heredia and Jesse Martin re-creating their original Broadway work.

The new production will open at the Duke of York's Theatre Oct. 2 with an official opening Oct. 16. The "contemporary" take on Rent was conceived and will be directed by William Baker. ("Contemporary"? Material sure dates fast in this fast-paced world, doesn't it?) It will be the first staging not to reproduce the original one first produced at New York Theater Workshop.

Baker told Daily Variety, "Because of Jonathan Larson's untimely death at the first preview, the show has become frozen as a kind of sacred text. It looked and sounded very much of its time. Audiences have changed since then, and I think it needed reappraising for a London audience." Baker added his Rent is a "digital production for a digital world — more a pop opera than a rock opera."

Back in the analog world, original Rent-ers Rapp and Pascal began a six-week homecoming stint in the Broadway production July 30.

Tony Torn and Hoon Lee in the L.A. production of David Henry Hwang's <i>Yellow Face</i>.
Tony Torn and Hoon Lee in the L.A. production of David Henry Hwang's Yellow Face. Photo by Craig Schwartz
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