PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 19-25: Seminar, Gatz, Blood and Gifts

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 19-25: Seminar, Gatz, Blood and Gifts
 
How Seminar, the new Theresa Rebeck play on Broadway starring Alan Rickman, was going to be received was anybody's guess. The critics love Rickman. He can do no wrong. But they tend to be a bit withholding where Rebeck is concerned, respecting her industry and command of craft while rarely raving about individual works.

True to form, the reviewers passed Rickman with flying colors, while they wrote lots of red marks in the margins of Rebeck's report card. In general, they found the tight comedy, about a fearsome literary teacher and the students he eats for breakfast at his private tutorials, good entertainment. Newsday called the play "a slim, 100-minute pseudo-serious piece about the twists and turns of nasty creative mentoring," and the Post said, "You can overlook the formulaic plotting because the witty Rebeck hits plenty of bull’s-eyes, most notably when poking fun at literary Manhattan's cutthroat world." Some were less laudatory. "Seminar seems to be almost nothing but shortcuts," wrote the Times, "and that includes the ways it defines and manipulates its characters. Full of efficiently mapped reversals and revelations, the play feels as if it were written according to some literary equivalent of a mileage-saving GPS device."

But everyone said the evening was greatly improved — and a worthwhile ticket — because of the expert cast. And not just Rickman, who was, of course, "heaven-sent as the sexy, sneering, snarling literary legend who condescends to tutor four aspiring novelists who have paid through the nose for the privilege of being abused"; and "clearly very good at playing arrogant and sneering, but he shows a touchingly vulnerable side while also delivering a lacerating monologue about what the publishing industry does to young talent and how words can really hurt." The rest of the cast was great, too, in the general opinion. "With actors of this caliber delivering the goods, it’s easy to just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride," said one review. It was an "ace ensemble" and "the civilized games they play are enormously entertaining."

Could be a Broadway hit. Hey, if Harry Potter can have one, so can Severus Snape.

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Off-Broadway, the American premiere of J.T. Rogers Afghanistan-set political drama, Blood and Gifts, starring Michael Aronov, Jeremy Davidson, Robert Hogan and Jefferson Mays, officially opened Off-Broadway Nov. 21 at Lincoln Center Theater's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. Critics found the play a credible and engrossing story, "a remarkably lucid and compelling account of how the American and British view of Afghanistan as a vital front in the cold war against the Soviet Union shaped the calamitous recent history of the country," as the Times put it. Like many other critics, Time Out lauded Rogers as one of the few new American playwright to take on global issues. "You'd be hard-pressed to name other writers willing to log months of research and suppress their formalist quirks in order to make such foreign, morally ambiguous terrain relevant to a theater audience… it thrills as a hard-hitting, high-tension story of power, loyalty and the moral cost of geopolitical gamesmanship." Wrote the New York Post, "With so many playwrights indulging in theatrical navel gazing, it's exciting to find someone who's looking out at the world… Blood and Gifts is an ambitious, sprawling historical drama that provides a potent depiction of the pitfalls of good intentions."

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In other Lincoln Center news, Domesticated, a new play by Pulitzer Prize-winning Clybourne Park playwright Bruce Norris, will be produced Off-Broadway by Lincoln Center Theater during the 2012-2013 season.

Anna Shapiro directed a mid-November reading of the new play, which was commissioned by Lincoln Center. Bill Pullman and Laurie Metcalf lead the cast of the reading.

Clybourne Park, which premiered at Playwrights Horizons in 2010, is aiming for a Broadway arrival in spring 2012. The production will play the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles this January under the direction of Pam MacKinnon prior to its New York return.

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James Corden was previously seen on Broadway playing a chubby student in the original cast of the National Theatre's production of Alan Bennett's The History Boys. He has since gone on to become a leading U.K. television star. He returns to the West End theatrical stage not as a supporting player, but as the star of the transfer of another National Theatre-originated show, the Goldini classic comedy One Man Two Guvnors, which opened officially Nov. 21 at the Adelphi Theatre.

As recently reported, it will follow its 16-week West End run (through Feb. 25) with a Broadway stand, due to begin performances at the Music Box Theatre April 6, prior to an official opening April 18.

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Do people want to hear nuns and priests belt arias?

John Patrick Shanley wants to find out. The playwright has teamed up with a composer to create an opera of Shanley's Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Doubt, about a tenacious nun who suspects a popular priest of impropriety with a student. The opera will premiere in 2013 as part of the company's 50th anniversary season.

Doubt received a ten-day workshop in early November as part of Opera Fusion: New Works, a collaboration with Cincinnati Opera and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Just don't call it The Singing Nun.

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Some theatres bring back Love Letters or A Christmas Carol when they want a guarantee of selling some tickets. The Public Theater brings back, Gatz, the acclaimed six-and-a-half-hour adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" by Elevator Repair Service.

Gatz will return to The Public Theater in spring 2012 for seven weeks. The word-for-word dramatization was a sold-out hit at the Public in fall 2010. It will begin previews on March 14, 2012, and run through May 6, for 28 performances only in the Newman Theater.

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