PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Oct. 21-27: Deuces Wild

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Oct. 21-27: Deuces Wild A funny thing happened to Terrence McNally's play Deuce on its way to Off-Broadway. It took a turn and landed on Broadway, towing behind it the unexpected return of Broadway’s most elusive leading lady.
Angela Lansbury and Marian Seldes
Angela Lansbury and Marian Seldes Photo by Aubrey Reuben

That recluse is Angela Lansbury, owner of four Tonys and no stage turns in nearly a quarter century. When the title Deuce first surfaced some months ago, it was mentioned as a property for Off-Broadway’s Primary Stages and a vehicle for Marian Seldes. Her rumored co-star was another four-time Tony champ who’s hard to book: Zoe Caldwell. The two even went so far as to team up for a July 23 Dorothy Parker reading at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, Long Island. But around the same time, newspaper reports had Lansbury scouting around for a play to bring her back to the stage.

Perhaps Scott Rudin read those reports, because it is he, Stuart Thompson and Maberry Theatricals — in association with Primary Stages — who will produce the Broadway bow of Deuce. The Broadway run will be a first for Primary Stages, which smartly hooked up with playwright McNally in recent years.

Michael Blakemore will direct the work, an "autumnal" comedy about two women who once ruled the tennis courts. The show will be McNally’s first new non-musical play to get a Broadway run in 10 years. That was Master Class, starring…ahem…Zoe Caldwell.

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Few do miserable, dark-humored, borderline misanthropy better than Nathan Lane. So the match of him and Ben Butley, the lacerating, game-playing soul-sick protagonist of the Simon Gray's 1971 play of the same name seemed a natural on paper. But critics—while respectful, as they always are with Lane—actually found the actor too funny, too nice when the Nicholas Martin-directed play opened on Oct. 25. Opening one day later was Twyla Tharp's staged wrestling match with the Bob Dylan oeuvre, The Times They Are A-Changin', which has gone through some much-publicized changin' during the preview period. A sign of its reception came in the opening lines of the New York Times review, which brought up the dreaded label "jukebox musical"; Tharp's hit Billy Joel show Movin' Out was also a jukebox musical, but the press rarely referred to it as a member of that ignominious club. Most reviewers agreed that the Circus-set fantasia "failed big," as one critic bluntly put it. And since Tharp is a major artist who deserves deep analysis, a lot of the critics went on about the failure as some length.

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With the first preview of Douglas Carter Beane's The Little Dog Laughed on Oct. 26, the Broadway stew received a rare ingredient: a comedy. Not a musical comedy, or a revival of a comedy, or a British comedy, but an honest-to-goodness new American comedy by a living, breathing playwright. Such things hardly ever find their way past Off-Broadway these days, since laffers (as the wordsmiths at Variety have it) aren't thought to be particularly lucrative or prestigious. And producers like to make a killing, be it at the box office or on the awards circuit.

Headlining this project is another phenomenon that has also wrongly been absent from Broadway for too long: actress Julie White. She co-stars with Johnny Galecki, Tom Everett Scott and Ari Graynor in the tale of a Hollywood star who can't keep his closet door shut.

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There were fewer laughs over at the Hirschfeld Theatre, where The Wedding Singer decided to leave the dance early. The show, based on the Adam Sandler film of the same name, will end its Broadway run Dec. 31. What spells curtains for The Wedding Singer, however, is likely music to the ears of Curtains, the John Kander and Fred Ebb show looking for a New York home.

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