PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, June 20-26: Oh, What a Night!

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, June 20-26: Oh, What a Night!
 
New York never gets tired of seeing Twelfth Night. Or, New York theatres never get tired of putting it on. I'm not sure which force drives the fact that we seem to see this Shakespearean comedy at least once a season.
Twelfth Night stars Audra McDonald and Anne Hathaway
Twelfth Night stars Audra McDonald and Anne Hathaway Photo by Joan Marcus

Not that that's such a bad thing. We could be forced to see Troilus and Cressida every season. Now that would be cause for grumbling! Twelfth Night's mix of fantasy, comedy, and star-crossed love goes down comparatively easy.

The new one is in Central Park, where director Dan Sullivan has gathered together a group led by Anne Hathaway, Audra McDonald, Julie White and Raul Esparza. Somehow, someday, during this endlessly rainy June, the troupe found a bit a sun in which to open for the critics. And the critics liked what they saw, calling it "most wonderful" and "joyous." Can it be? A Shakespeare production that reviewers have no problems with?

Relative stage novice Hathaway was found to acquit herself smartly and ably in the central role of Viola. McDonald was praised for her musicality and arc of characterization as Olivia, her first Shakespearean lead. Julie White was funny (natch) as Maria. Esparza managed to find something to chew on in the thankless role of Orsino. Also applauded was the musical score by neo-folk ensemble Hem.

So maybe it will stop raining in July and people can actually go see it.

*** Atlantic Theater Company announced three of its 2009-2010 season productions —better late than never! — including a double-bill by Atlantic co-founder David Mamet, whose newfound political conservatism seems to have made him frightfully prolific. The plays are Keep Your Pantheon (a New York City premiere), set in ancient Rome (yes, ancient Rome —what? Mamet can't write period pieces if he wants to?); and the world premiere of School, "a brief comic discourse on recycling, poster design and the transmission of information." Ooh, I smell of political screed!

Mamet's fellow Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Sam Shepard will make his Atlantic debut with the U.S. premiere of the Abbey Theatre's production of Ages of the Moon following its acclaimed March 2009 world premiere engagement in Ireland, directed by Jimmy Fay. What's it about? This: "Byron and Ames are old friends, reunited by mutual desperation. Over bourbon on ice, they sit, reflect and bicker until 50 years of love, friendship and rivalry are put to the test at the barrel of a gun." As playwrights get older, so do their characters, I guess.

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Additional casting was announced for the Center Theatre Group presentation of the London Donmar Warehouse production of the musical Parade, which is turning into an event of sorts owing to the casting. Quite some fuss was stirred up when it was announced that "Grey's Anatomy" star T.R. Knight (once an Off-Broadway regular) was to star in the revival. He'll be supported by the two recent leads from A Chorus Line, Michael Berresse and Charlotte d'Amboise, and one of the leads from Jersey Boys, Christian Hoff, who hasn't been heard from since he exited Broadway's Pal Joey last fall during previews.

Rob Ashford will direct. Parade will start previews Sept. 24 at the CTG/Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.

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Theresa Rebeck and Julie White, frequent collaborators, are getting back together. White will head the cast of the fall New York City premiere of Rebeck's The Understudy (guess what it's about) for Roundabout Theatre Company at its Off-Broadway venue, the Laura Pels Theatre. Performances will begin Oct. 9 toward an opening of Nov. 5. Roundabout associate artistic director Scott Ellis — who directed White to a Tony Award in The Little Dog Laughed will pilot the comedy. Additional casting will be announced. White will play Roxanne, a stage manager. Hm. Is that like the stage equivalent of the Thelma Ritter role?

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