Judgment at Nuremberg isn't the only post-Holocaust drama ending its run this Mother's Day. As expected, when Arje Shaw's The Gathering came up empty at the May 7 Tony Award nominations, a closing notice followed shortly thereafter. The play will end its Broadway run May 13, after 12 previews and 24 regular performances, according to production spokespersons at the Keith Sherman press office.
Tony and Emmy Award-winning Hal Linden stars in The Gathering, which opened at the Cort Theatre April 24. Previews began April 13 for the show's run, produced by Martin Markinson, Lawrence Toppall, Bruce Lazarus, Martha Gasparian, Daniel S. Wise and Steve Alpert in association with Diaspora Productions.
The play received mostly negative reviews, and box office grosses have been disastrous, with the show taking in less than $100,000 in each of the past two weeks. A Tony nod for the play or Linden might have given the producers impetus to continue. The play was also blanked by the Outer Critics Circle Awards and Drama Desk nominations.
The show tried out at the Wadsworth Theatre in Los Angeles Feb. 3-20, officially opening there Feb. 4. Directed by Rebecca Taylor, the play had an extended Off-Broadway run in 1999, winning strong praise from both critics and audiences.
The cast also features Sam Guncler, Deidre Lovejoy and Colman Zeiglen. Understudy Max Dworen took over the role of the youngster in the show from Adam Rose, who played the part in L.A. Designing the show are Michael Anania (sets), Susan Soetaert (costumes), Scott Clyve (lighting) and T. Richard Fitzgerald (sound). Andy Stein contributed original music to the piece.
Set in 1985, The Gathering, a comedic family drama, explores the conflicts between grandfather, father and son which arise over the dinner table when they discuss President Ronald Reagan's planned visit to Bitburg, site of burial grounds for Nazi soldiers. The stakes are high in the discussion because the grandfather (Linden) is a Holocaust survivor and his son is a speechwriter for Reagan. Caught between them is the young lad, who is preparing for his bar mitvah. In the second act, grandpa virtually kidnaps the boy to have his Bar Mitzvah over the graves of German dead, both a vindication and an expression of the old man's lasting bitterness.
Actor Linden, last Off Broadway in Visiting Mr. Green, won a 1971 Tony Award for playing patriarch Mayer Rothschild in The Rothschilds and has also appeared in the Madison Square Garden A Christmas Carol. He’s best known, however, for starring in TV’s police-station sitcom, “Barney Miller.” Regarding The Gathering, Linden said in a statement, “I am proud to return to Broadway in a vehicle so rich in ideas and emotion.”
In a "Brief Encounter" interview (not yet published), Linden told Playbill On-Line that The Gathering has been pruned and revised in its journey from L.A. To NYC. "There were certain aspects [that] were maybe a little over-explained and could use a little more mystery," Linden said. "So a lot has been taken out, and it makes the show easier to play."
The character of the grandfather was based on Shaw's father, who was the youngest of seven children and who fled Poland after the Nazi invasion of 1939. After weeks of traveling—much of it on his hands and knees—Shaw's father ended up in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where he met Shaw's mother. The family survived the war and returned, via cattle car, through Poland in 1946, to Bergen Belsen, the former concentration camp, now turned into a displaced person's camp.
Asked his thoughts about themes in Shaw's drama, Linden told PBOL, "We are the product of our experiences. The history we bring to a situation determines how we react to it."
Though the themes of war guilt and post-war Jewishness have gotten a workout in several shows this season (from the ultra-serious Judgment at Nuremberg to the mega-flippant The Producers), the only minor controversy about The Gathering isn't about the show itself. The Daily News ran Howard Kissel's review of The Gathering on April 23, even though there's an unspoken rule in media that critiques don't run until after a show has opened. As such, the vast majority of print, radio and TV reviews for The Gathering are expected to appear starting April 25. The Keith Sherman press office conferred with the Daily News and learned that the early publication was simply "a mistake" and is willing to leave it at that. The newspaper printed a Correction in its April 24 issue, saying the review appeared "erroneously in yesterday's paper. It should have run tomorrow."
For tickets and information on The Gathering at Cort Theatre call Telecharge at (800) 233-3123.