PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 16-22: Here, There & Everywhere

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 16-22: Here, There & Everywhere When Superior Donuts — playwright Tracy Letts' first new play after the competition-flattening August: Osage County — opened last summer at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the theatre world held its breath, anticipating that it was about to witness the dawning of new prize-winning, box-office-busting masterpiece.

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tracy Letts.
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tracy Letts. Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Then the reviews came out. The workplace drama was modest, said the critics. Small-scale, likable, intimate, not bad. At that point, New York producers learned something that theatre reviewers already knew: Every new Tracy Letts play is very different than the last Tracy Letts play.

Hopes for a speedy transfer to Broadway died soon after. But, apparently, they didn't die altogether. August producer Jeffrey Richards is standing by his man once again, and, along with his fellow August producers, will bring Donuts to Broadway for a run that will open Oct. 1 at a Shubert theatre to be announced. Tina Landau will direct — her first Broadway assignment since Bells Are Ringing in 2001. The Chicago Tribune reported that Letts had made changes to the play since its premiere.

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Some miles north of Chicago, another Pulitzer-winning, big-deal playwright was premiering his latest. At the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Tony Kushner unveiled The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures. The title, which seems designed as catnip for potential right-wing picketers, is actually inspired by two 19th-century thinkers and their works — George Bernard Shaw's The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism and Mary Baker Eddie's Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.

The cast, headed by playwright-actor Michael Cristofer, playing "a 20th-century thinker, retired longshoreman Gus Marcantonio, who's feeling confused and defeated by the 21st century," is a big Kushner alumni reunion: Kathleen Chalfant, Stephen Spinella and Linda Emond. So, there's little chance of the actors not capturing the Kushner tone. ***

Sam Mendes' "The Bridge Project" — a helping of Shakespeare, a helping of Chekhov; a little bit Yankee, a little bit Limey; a time in London, a time in Brooklyn — will continue in 2010 with repertory productions of Chekhov's Three Sisters and Shakespeare's As You Like It.

For the inaugural season of the Bridge Project, Mendes offered The Cherry Orchard and The Winter's Tale. The new pairing will begin at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, followed by a London engagement and international stops through August. The Bridge Project, a joint venture between BAM, The Old Vic and director Mendes, was conceived as a three-year endeavor.

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Certain classic plays come back to the stage again and again. But it's rare that a specific production of a play comes back after its initial stay and a significant lag of time have passed. So, you know a director must have been doing something right back in 1992 when he reconceived J.B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls for the Royal National Theatre in London. The popular, rain-soaked, set-smashing revival went on to play three West End runs and a hit Broadway engagement. Now it will again return to the West End. (The National must keep that collapsing-house set piece in storage somewhere where it can easily be gotten at.)

Following the culmination of its current U.K. national tour, the production will begin performances at the Novello Theatre Sept. 22 for a run to Nov. 14. It's getting to be some kind of non-holiday A Christmas Carol.

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Kristin Scott Thomas, who was not nominated for a Tony Award for last fall's The Seagull, to the surprise of many, is apparently too busy thinking about her next project to dwell on that much. She is expected to play Swedish actress Desiree Armfeldt in a new Paris production of A Little Night Music.

The bilingual actress told the New York Daily News that she will star in the Stephen Sondheim-Hugh Wheeler musical in Paris in spring 2010. The production will be presented in English.

Meanwhile, a new London production of A Little Night Music, directed by Trevor Nunn, is expected to get a Broadway spinoff in the fall. (It is also performed in English, in case you were wondering.)

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Lynn Nottage spent Monday added a new shelf to her trophy cabinet, after winning her latest prize for her play Ruined — the Drama Desk for Outstanding Play. The honors were passed out May 18, and the usual suspects prevailed. Billy Elliot The Musical was named Outstanding Musical. Hair won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revival of a Musical, and The Norman Conquests won the Outstanding Revival of a Play Award.

Most awkward win: Pablo Schreiber was named for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play. But not for Desire Under the Elms, the play in which he is starring on Broadway this spring (at least, until May 24). No, he won for reasons to be pretty, the Neil LaBute work in which he acted last year Off-Broadway. reasons is, of course, on Broadway right now — but without Schreiber in the cast.