PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 26-April 1: How to Succeed and Bengal Tiger Open

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 26-April 1: How to Succeed and Bengal Tiger Open David Mamet has a new play. And like his other recent new plays, it has creeped onto the media radar like a cat burglar.

Rupert Goold
Rupert Goold Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The unexpected announcement came from producer Jeffrey Richards, as all news about Mamet does these days. The press release was a tight single paragraph, and revealed almost nothing about the play, save its title, The Anarchist, and its director, Rupert Goold, a hot Brit of the moment. The modus operandi was familiar to anyone who remembered how information about Mamet's last new work, Race, was doled out with an eyedropper.

The play will open on Goold's turf, London, this coming fall. It will be the third Mamet opus to premiere in Limey, after Glengarry Glen Ross and The Cryptogram.

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There were two Broadway openings this week. One (March 31) was also the Broadway debut of young playwright Rajiv Joseph (well, young-ish; he's 36) and of old actor Robin Williams. Williams played the title character in Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, which is not only a tiger, but a ghost who roams a haunted patch of Iraq, circa 2003, seeking nothing less than the meaning of life. The surreal play was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

A good number of critics found the play rich, intelligent, imaginative and fascinating (it's a "money review" in the New York Times), while others complained that, for all its structural originality, its ultimate message — war is futile and costly — was mundane and predictable. The reception of Williams' performance, meanwhile, was interesting. Many predicted he'd give in to his usual self-indulgent cutting up, bending the play to his will. Instead, critics said that he was perhaps too subdued and self-effacing and the part could do with a little more of Williams' patented comic ferocity. Will these reviews have an impact on the show's fortunes? The AP probably summed up the production's case most succinctly: "Joseph may be a gifted young playwright but he has pretty much hit the jackpot by landing the 59-year-old Williams." Right.

Daniel Radcliffe
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Another Broadway star who is very likely critic-proof is Daniel Radcliffe, who brought his vast Harry Potter fanbase to the new revival of Frank Loesser's How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, playing the smiling Richard III of American musical comedy, J. Pierrepont Finch. It opened March 27. Tony Award winner Rob Ashford directed and choreographed, as he did last year with Promises, Promises, another hit musical that mined the New York mores of the 1960s. The voice of the omniscient narrator — always a piece of stunt casting — was filled by Anderson Cooper, which shows how much the news media has descended in the last couple decades. In the 1995 revival, Walter Cronkite got the job.

Radcliffe will need all his box office pull to overcome the New York Times review, which called the revival "charmless." Other reviewers were much more kind, if not exactly ecstatic. And everyone bent over backwards to give Radcliffe A's for effort. While admitting he wasn't a natural singer or dancer, the reviews deemed him "capable," "eager to please," "dogged," filled with "willpower," "determination," "dedication" and "enthusiasm." Which is to say, he "really, really tries." Will the musical recoup? How long is Radcliffe booked for?

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The struggling Intiman Theatre in Seattle, which was about to go under for the last time, will live to see another season. It has nearly met its March 31 fundraising goal of $500,000. The Seattle Center company also retained the services of veteran Seattle arts administrator and consultant Susan Trapnell, and announced that its interim manager, Melaine Bennett, is leaving the theatre. Trapnell was managing director of ACT Theatre in San Francisco from 1982 to 1999, and again from 2003 to 2007.

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Rocker Bret Michaels getting conked on the head continues to hold its place as the most memorable thing about the 2009 Tony Awards ceremony. If you recall, the incident occurred during the opening number as a backdrop descended on the rock singer while he finished his song.

Apparently, Michaels' head still hurts. He has filed a lawsuit against CBS and the organizers of the Tony Awards. The lawsuit states, "Michaels was never told that the scenery piece would be descending or given any warning of the existence of the dangers it presented." The lawsuit further claims the singer continues to deal with the effects of the injury, including brain bleeding that required hospitalization last year.

Michaels' lawyer, Alex Weingarten, said that the performer tried to resolve the issue without filing a lawsuit but was unsuccessful. "They must be held accountable for almost killing Bret, and that is what we are going to do," Weingarten wrote in his statement.

What if some producer came up with a jukebox musical of Poison songs? Would that make it even?

The cast of <i>Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo</i>
The cast of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
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