PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 23-29: Stealing Focus

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 23-29: Stealing Focus For whatever reason, every year between the announcement of the Tony Awards nominations and the handing out of the awards, a major Broadway project or two is announced. Perhaps producers, knowing everyone's about had it up to here with awards news, think that theatre ears will be particularly receptive to something — anything — that doesn't have to do with Antoinette Perry.
Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig
Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig

And so, a future Broadway show was unveiled this week, and it's a lollypop. The New York Post reported that Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig, a couple of movie action stars with chiseled profiles and classy accents, will be coming to town this fall to co-star in Keith Huff's A Steady Rain.

Craig only would be exciting enough. But Jackman! Producers have been desperately trying to get him back on the stage since he played Peter Allen in The Boy From Oz and wooed every wife and blue-hair in the five boroughs, not to mention Jersey and Westchester. It's taken five years, but the Aussie finally found a project he liked.

Those expecting a return of Peter Allen, however, will be surprised. A Steady Rain tells of two seasoned cops whose lifelong friendship is severely tested when a seemingly routine domestic disturbance call results in the death of a young boy. In a word: dark.

Keith Huff

Kind of lost in all this glamorous news is the fact that this will mark the Big League debut of Chicago playwright Keith Huff. A Steady Rain was a breakthrough hit for him when it played Chicago Dramatists in fall 2007, and then transferred in 2008 to the Royal George Theater. *** The Public Theater announced its 2009-2010 season this week. The line-up will boast premieres by playwrights Richard Foreman in his first Public production in some time (Willem Dafoe will star); new talent Tarell Alvin McCraney; and Suzan-Lori Parks, bringing out her first major play since winning the Pulitzer for Topdog/Underdog; as well as the latest work from extemporaneous monologist Mike Daisey.

But the production likely to gather the most press and ticket sales will be the season opener, a new staging of the Shakespeare tragedy Othello starring John Ortiz in the title role and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Iago. Adding an extra layer of drama to the proceedings is the fact that it will be directed by Peter Sellars, from whose fevered mind you never know what to expect. The production will be presented by The Public and LAByrinth Theater Company in association with Wiener Festwochen and K15 Festival (Off-Broadway producing credits are getting as top-heavy as Broadway ones). And it will play not at the Public, but the NYU Skirball Center, through Oct. 4. So, you see, nothing's quite typical about this show.

***

You never hear the names Pearl Theatre Company and Manhattan Theatre Club used in the same sentence. The first is a longstanding Off-Off-Broadway troupe of modest means dedicated to straight-ahead interpretations of the classics, while the latter is a high-powered, big-budget, nonprofit giant with awards a-plenty and its own Broadway house. They seem to exist in two very different theatrical universes.

But next season they're be bunkmates!

The Pearl is leaving Theatre 80, its East Village home for 15 years, and moving into to City Center's Stage II, the smaller of the two Off-Broadway stages that MTC uses. Pretty swank upgrade! The Pearl will lease the space from Manhattan Theatre Club, which will continue to present its productions at its Broadway home (Samuel J. Friedman Theatre) and City Center Stage I.

The new Pearl season will launch Oct. 2 with J.M. Synge's The Playboy of the Western World under the direction of the Pearl's new artistic director, J.R. Sullivan.

***

Neil Armfield, artistic director of Australia's Company B since 1994, has decided to step down from that position. New Yorkers recently became aware of Armfield through his critically praised production of Exit the King, starring Geoffrey Rush. Armfield is also a co-founder of the Australian theatre company, but he now wants to pursue free-lance work. Just make sure you keep the health insurance, Neil! It's rough out there.

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