PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 26-June 1: Atlantic and Across the Atlantic

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 26-June 1: Atlantic and Across the Atlantic The red hot Atlantic Theater Company (Spring Awakening, The Lieutenant of Inishmore) announced its 2007-08 line-up this week, one that will feature no fewer than five world premieres, including works by moviemaker Ethan Coen, Lucy Thurber and Jez Butterworth, as well as one New York premiere, Conor McPherson's Port Authority.
Conor McPherson
Conor McPherson Photo by Alastair Muir

In producing Three Short Plays by Ethan Coen, by hipster filmmaker Ethan Coen ("O Brother, Where Art Thou?," "Fargo"), the Atlantic could be said to be looking for its own Neil LaBute, the filmmaker-turned-hypersuccessful-playwright, who is the favorite son of Manhattan Class Company. LaBute began his current stage career with a trio of one-acts as well, bash. No word on what the Coen plays are about. No word, either, on the cast, but here's something to think about: Ethan's sister-in-law is Frances McDormand.

The Thurber play is Scarcity, the latest from the rising young playwright of Where We're Born. It's about a family torn between dreams and obligations. Butterworth, who gave the Atlantic one of their early hits with Mojo, returns with Parlour Song, "which explores what happens when two ordinary people discover they hate who they have become." McPherson's Port Authority is "set against the backdrop of contemporary Dublin, Port Authority weaves the stories of three generations of Irishmen as they experience loss, failure and the elusiveness of love."

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Meanwhile, The Old Vic's artistic director Kevin Spacey— currently on Broadway in A Moon for the Misbegotten—announced a new season that will include Atlantic Theater Company founder David Mamet. Spacey himself will star as Bobby Gould in Mamet's Hollywood comedy Speed-the-Plow. Also scheduled are a stage adaptation of Pedro Almodóvar's film "All About My Mother"; a new production of starring Spacey; and a Christmas pantomime version of Cinderella written by the comedy actor and author and all-around West End wit Stephen Fry. The season will additionally include the previously announced Sam Mendes-directed double bill of Shakespeare's Hamlet and The Tempest, both starring Stephen Dillane. The productions mark the first of three consecutive years of "The Bridge Project," transatlantic co-productions between The Old Vic and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

*** On Broadway, the Roundabout Theatre Company announced it would revive Terrence McNally's 1975 farce (remember when McNally wrote farces?) The Ritz. The madcap gay-bathhouse comedy will star Rosie Perez and Kevin Chamberlin, and is directed by old McNally hand Joe Mantello. It will begin previews Sept. 14 and officially open Oct. 11 at Broadway's Studio 54.

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The tradition continues at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, which launched its annual Marathon of one-act plays, the Off-Broadway company's signature event, on May 31. It's the first marathon under new artistic director William Carden, who took over following the Jan. 19 suicide of EST founder Curt Dempster. The line-up is as good as ever. Julia Cho, Neil LaBute, Wendy MacLeod, Billy Aronson and Israel Horovitz are among writers. Actors participating include Larry Pine, Grant Shaud, Bruce MacVittie, Morgan Hallett, Dana Delany, Geneva Carr and Marin Ireland.

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Finally, Charles Nelson Reilly died this past week. To the public, the actor and director was known largely as a talk show and game show wit. But the theatre cherished him for his string of celebrated 1960s musical theatre performances in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Hello, Dolly! and Skyscraper. Despite his many hours logged in on the small screen, he never stayed away from the theatre for long. When the parts dried up, he turned to directing, and also taught for many years at HB Studios. Among his directorial high points, he staged Bill Luce's The Belle of Amherst, a famous vehicle for Julie Harris. The title of his final stage enterprise, a one-man show, was, aptly enough, Save it for the Stage.

Charles Nelson Reilly
Charles Nelson Reilly
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