PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 4-10: Failure to Produce

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 4-10: Failure to Produce
 
"Censorship" is not an accusation that any theatre company likes to hear. But the respected Off-Broadway nonprofit New York Theatre Workshop has been hearing little but in the past week or so, all due to their handling of the London play, My Name Is Rachel Corrie.
My Name Is Rachel Corrie co-writer Alan Rickman.
My Name Is Rachel Corrie co-writer Alan Rickman. Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Penned by actor Alan Rickman and journalist Katherine Viner, it is about the death of the titular activist for Palestinian rights, who was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer in March 2003. The work is concocted using her journals and emails. The occurrence drew wrath from both sides of the political fence — some saying the death was accidental and others contending it was not.

The show was expected to reach NYTW this spring, though it was never announced or listed as a consideration by the company. But after polling community groups about the play, the theatre decided to postpone the production. "In the less than two months we had to mount the proposed production of the Royal Court's My Name Is Rachel Corrie,," said NYTW artistic director James C. Nicola , "we found that there was a strong possibility that a number of factions, on all sides of a political conflict, could use the production as a platform for their own agendas. We were not confident that we had the time to create an environment where the art could be heard independent of the political issues associated with it."

Not surprisingly, others didn't see it that way and weren't happy with the Workshop's thinking. Playwright Christopher Shinn published an essay on-line protesting the move. John Weidman, president of the Dramatists Guild, wrote a Letter to the Editor, published in the New York Times, which covered the controversy in several articles. And The Royal Court in London, where the play began, declared itself unwilling to wait until NYTW was feeling comfortable about the project. The UK-based company told the Times it has fielded offers from other stateside producers interested in transferring the work. The Court is interested in striking while the iron is hot on the play. The work will transfer to a 36-performance West End run at the Playhouse Theatre, March 28-May 7, with original star Megan Dodds in the title role.

***

What New York theatre company has the oddest name? Before you shout out things like LAByrinth, Elevator Repair Service or Les Freres Corbusier, listen to this: Jean Cocteau Rep, the struggling 35-year-old classics house tucked into the Bouwerie Lane Theatre on the Bowery, announced this week that it had found an unlikely partner: EgoPo , a New Orleans-based experimental 15-year-old company that lost its home after Hurricane Katrina and has lately been performing in Philadelphia. The new name of the merged outfit? EgoPo/Cocteau. Jean Cocteau has been bobbing on rough seas the last couple years, having lost some key members of its core ensemble, two artistic directors and a good chunk of its subscription base. With EgoPo, it will now present plays in a "multi-city repertory," with different shows being presented on both The Bowery and Philadelphia at the same time. The collaborations will be supported by a third group, the Catskill Mountain Foundation , which will provide summer workshop performance space, as well as an annual residency with Julia Hansen's Theater Masters in Aspen, Colorado. Lane Savadove , EgoPo's founder, is the new joint company's new artistic director.

Savadore's first production at the Bouwerie Lane will be his version of Jean Genet's The Maids, called The Maid x 2 . It was seen in New Orleans and at the Philadelphia Live Arts, and will open March 31. The company said a full 2006-07 season will feature at least one world premiere and a production of Nigerian playwright and Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka's Camwood on the Leaves.

***

The week featured a quartet of major Off-Broadway openings: Grey Gardens , a new musical based on the 1975 documentary about addled socialites Edie Beale and Edith Bouvier Beale ; The Music Teacher , William and Allen Shawn 's "Play/Opera" about a regretful music teacher with a host of inner demons; Michael John LaChiusa 's latest, Bernarda Alba , at Lincoln Center Theatre ; and Measure for Pleasure , David Grimm's modern romp through Restoration Theatre styles. None registered a solid home run with the critics, though almost all (sorry, Shawn brothers) found their champions.

Today’s Most Popular News: