PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, June 24-30: Of Canadians and Kings

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, June 24-30: Of Canadians and Kings The Public Theater generated most of the notable news this week, beginning with its June 28 opening of Macbeth in Central Park, starring the nonprofit's Shakespeare poster boy, Liev Schreiber as the Scottish usurper, and Jennifer Ehle, as his never-satisfied wife. The critics, as always, loved Schreiber, but were less enamored with director Moises Kaufman's stately, pictorial production.
Liev Schreiber as the guilt-ridden Macbeth.
Liev Schreiber as the guilt-ridden Macbeth. Photo by Michal Daniel

Public Theater artistic director Oskar Eustis chose Macbeth's opening night to announce officially what we all knew by now: that Kevin Kline, the leading American Shakespearean of the acting generation prior to Schreiber, would play the title role in King Lear this fall. This will give theatergoers the chance to compare Kline's king to those of Christopher Plummer and Alvin Epstein, which both opened in New York in the past couple seasons (Epstein's runs through July 2). Gee, it's almost like being in London!

The third bit of meaty Public news was new casting for the next Delacorte Theater attraction, Mother Courage , starring Meryl Streep. The actress' co-star in the 2001 park production of The Seagull, Christopher Walken, will join her again, taking on the role of Cook.

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Elsewhere, Pig Farm opened June 27 at the Roundabout Theatre Company. The play was the latest by Urinetown librettist and co-lyricist Greg Kotis, who seems to have attended the Artaud School of Play-Naming. The estimable cast featured Katie Finneran, Denis O'Hare, John Ellison Conlee and Logan Marshall-Green. Those critics who liked it (rare birds, to be sure) found it a mindlessly funny satire on government and various playwriting styles (Sam Shepard, etc.). Those who didn't—well, they really didn't.

*** You open in 1960, your theatre is named after the street it's on. You open in 2006, your theatre is named after a popular brand of peach iced tea. Such is the case for The Fantasticks, which is scheduled to return to New York 29 at the Snapple Theater Center.

Complete casting was announced this week for the classic Harvey Schmidt-Tom Jones musical. It will feature Thomas Bruce as Henry, Leo Burmester as Hucklebee, MacIntyre Dixon as Mortimer, Santino Fontana as Matt, Sara Jean Ford as Luisa, James Moye as El Gallo, Douglas Ullman, Jr. as The Mute and Martin Vidnovic as Bellomy. Directed by co-creator Jones, The Fantasticks will officially open Aug. 16.

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Some theatre news blew in from up north. La Jolla Playhouse artistic director Des McAnuff , who is a native Canadian (who knew?), will become one of three artistic directors at Canada's Stratford Festival , effective 2008. McAnuff recently announced that he would leave La Jolla in 2007. His co-artistic directors at Stratford will be Marti Maraden and Don Shipley.

Elsewhere in the Great White North, the Toronto stage spectacle, The Lord of the Rings, had one of those good-news, bad-news weeks. The week began with it winning seven Dora Mavor Moore Awards, which honor Canadian theatre. It ended with a closing notice.

The super-sized production will pack up its hobbits and leave the Shire Sept. 2. By its closing performance it will have played just 230 performances—not exactly the king of return you expect from your $27 million. Producers partly blamed the early closure on the blistering critical reception the show received. (It did snag seven Dora Mavor Moore Awards, Toronto's highest theatre honor, June 26.) Nonetheless, the world has not seen the last of Lord . It will make its London debut at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 2007.

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