PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Sept. 18-24: Taking the Baitz; Busch in a Habit; Broadway Heats Up

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Sept. 18-24: Taking the Baitz; Busch in a Habit; Broadway Heats Up
 
On their own, Stockard Channing, Stacy Keach, Linda Lavin and Elizabeth Marvel could headline any play in town. Instead, they're together as part of the embarrassment-of-riches cast of Other Desert Cities, the new play from Jon Robin Baitz, which will premiere Off-Broadway at Lincoln Center Theater in December.

Stockard Channing
Stockard Channing

Channing, Keach and Lavin alone bring about 130 years of acting experience to the the Mitzi Newhouse Theater. They will all be directed by Joe Mantello, who will guide the story of Brooke Wyeth (Marvel), a once promising novelist, who returns home after a six-year absence to celebrate Christmas in Palm Springs with her parents (Channing and Keach), former members of the Reagan inner-circle, her brother (to be cast) and her aunt (Lavin).

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Broadway started firing on all cylinders this week. Among the shows that began previewing were La Bete, Donald MarguliesTime Stands Still, the sports bio-play Lombardi and the revival of David Mamet's A Life in the Theatre. Off-Broadway, meanwhile, saw a couple noteworthy openings. The Divine Sister, the Charles Busch comedy that had a super-secret downtown run (no critics!) last season, opened for real on Sept. 22 at the SoHo Playhouse. Busch plays the central role of a put-upon Mother Superior in the satire of Hollywood nun films. Critics found it fresh and funny, a return to form for the cross-dressing comic actor. The Times said it was his "freshest, funniest work in years, perhaps decades" (which isn't, perhaps the kind of compliment a lady, or a man dressed as a lady, quite likes to hear).

Elsewhere, the previously mentioned Elizabeth Marvel opened Sept. 21 in the New York Theatre Workshop's production of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes — or, put more correctly, Ivo van Hove's The Little Foxes, for when this Flemish director takes the helm, the resulting stage work in wholly his own. Van Hove always divided the critics, though most tend to agree that his productions bore, as they did here. Boosters found it a thrilling, eye-popping modern interpretation of the Hellman melodrama; detractors found it uneven and unrealized. All loved Marvel. They always do.

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Lynn Nottage
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage has been named the 2010 recipient of the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, which will be presented in Manhattan Nov. 8.

Nottage, who authored the Congolese-set drama Ruined, is the second artist to receive the biennial honor. Presented by The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, the award is already a highly coveted coup because it comes with a pay-the-bills-and-more cash prize of $200,000. That's not theatre money. That's real money.

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In this week's New York Post, producer Barry Weissler said, "We do shows for human beings, and critics aren't human beings." Well, meet the new android, Barry.

New York magazine finally got around to appointing a full-time theatre critic, fully two years after their former reviewer Jeremy McCarter took a powder. Since then, the weekly has made due with a rotating string of free-lancers. This, some argued, robbed the magazine of a strong theatre voice.

One of those temps has now been made a perm. New York magazine editor-in-chief Adam Moss announced Sept. 20 that Scott Brown will be the magazine's new theatre critic beginning Sept. 21. Brown will write reviews for both the print magazine and the web as well as daily posts to the Vulture online entertainment magazine.

Brown, who has been a part-time reviewer for New York magazine for the last two years, spent seven years as a writer at Entertainment Weekly, covering theatre, movies and television. He was also a columnist for Wired.

Nick Westrate, Thomas Jay Ryan, Greig Sargeant and Elizabeth Marvel
Nick Westrate, Thomas Jay Ryan, Greig Sargeant and Elizabeth Marvel
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