PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 27-June 2: Kevin's Choice

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 27-June 2: Kevin's Choice Well, it's not every theatre that begins its season with a play that's yet to be determined. But when you've got Kevin Kline hooked on the idea of doing Shakespeare—but not quite decided on which Shakespeare—as the Public Theater does, I guess you go with it. And so, the Public's 2006-07 line-up, announced this week, will begin with a Bard classic of unknown identity, directed by James Lapine.
Kevin Kline
Kevin Kline Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Since it's a quiet week on the Rialto, and I've precious little to "review," let's have a little fun and try to dope out which tragedy, comedy or history Kline might favor. One can likely rule out Richard III, Much Ado About Nothing, Henry V and Hamlet ; he's done those before at the Public. (However, Kline is not opposed to trying something twice; he made two stabs at Hamlet.) Ditto Henry IV . Kline won raves recently when he played Falstaff in that history play at Lincoln Center Theater. And he just essayed Jaques in As You Like It in Kenneth Branagh's film, soon to be released, so that's out. He also did Bottom on film, in 1999's A Midsummer Night's Dream .

Macbeth is a no-go since Liev Schreiber is doing it in Central Park this summer, while Julius Caesar and King Lear recently had famous Broadway mountings, and All's Well That Ends Well and Measure for Measure had acclaimed Off-Broadway productions in New York this past season. Kline is a bit long in the tooth for the leads in Love's Labour's Lost, Pericles, The Taming of the Shrew and Two Gentleman of Verona . A good guess might have been Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, if F. Murray Abraham wasn't slated to do the part at Theatre for a New Audience this season. Then there are all the "why bother" titles, like King John, Henry VIII, Cymbeline, Titus Andronicus, The Two Noble Kinsmen and all those Henry VI s. He's Kevin Kline—he'll want to do one of the great roles.

My guesses for the most likely candidates: Prospero in The Tempest and the title role in Coriolanus. Or perhaps Kline, happiest as a clown, will continue his Falstaff act in Merry Wives of Windsor.

***

Back to solid facts. The Public season will also include the U.S. premiere of Wrecks, starring Ed Harris, by the endlessly productive Neil LaBute; the world premiere of Durango by Julie Cho; the New York premiere of Emergence-See!, written and performed by Daniel Beaty; the world premiere of the new musical Passing Strange , with book and lyrics by the surnameless Stew, and music by Stew and Heidi Rodewald; the New York debut of Craig Lucas' ambitious play The Singing Forest; and the New York bow of Public favorite Suzan-Lori Parks ' 365 Days/365 Plays. Also, Brian Dennehy has signed on to make his Shakespeare in the Park debut in 2007. No play or director have been named. ***

Broadway's where you make money in the New York Theatre. According to the League of American Theatres and Producers' year-end figures, grosses hit a new record during the 2005-06 season, increasing 12 percent from $768.5 million to $861.6 million.

Off-Broadway, meanwhile, continues to be where you don't make money. Playhouse 91, the Upper East Side Off-Broadway theatre that was home to the hits Quartermaine's Terms, The Syringa Tree and Menopause, the Musical, closed its doors this week. Producers Leonard Soloway, Steven M. Levy, and Patricia Greenwald, who ran the theatre, cited the crippling economics of producing Off-Broadway as one of the reason's they sold the building's lease back to its owner. In related news, the owners of midtown historic Lamb's Theatre served an eviction notice on resident Lamb's Theatre Company. The owners are going to cast their lot instead with a company that wants to turn the building into a hotel.