Today in Theatre History: OCTOBER 20

News   Today in Theatre History: OCTOBER 20 1947 The National Theatre is host tonight for the opening of Robinson Jeffers' rendition of the Greek classic Medea by Euripides. John Gielgud directs and also stars in this production, along with Judith Anderson and Marian Seldes (Three Tall Women, Dear Liar at the Irish Repertory Theatre) making her Broadway debut. Anderson's portrayal of the title character is "a burning performance in a savage part," according to Brooks Atkinson. He says that she "understands the character more thoroughly than Medea, Euripides or the scholars, and it would be useless now for anyone else to attempt the part." The show will run 214 performances.

1947 The National Theatre is host tonight for the opening of Robinson Jeffers' rendition of the Greek classic Medea by Euripides. John Gielgud directs and also stars in this production, along with Judith Anderson and Marian Seldes (Three Tall Women, Dear Liar at the Irish Repertory Theatre) making her Broadway debut. Anderson's portrayal of the title character is "a burning performance in a savage part," according to Brooks Atkinson. He says that she "understands the character more thoroughly than Medea, Euripides or the scholars, and it would be useless now for anyone else to attempt the part." The show will run 214 performances.

1954 The musical Peter Pan shows audiences how fun it is to be a kid as it opens tonight at the Winter Garden Theatre. The show is based on the 1904 fantasy by James M. Barrie and features a score by Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Jule Styne, and Carolyn Leigh, and Mark Charlap. Mary Martin in the title role wins critical acclaim as she performs with her twelve year old daughter (playing Liza, the maidservant) and Cyril Richard as menacing Captain Hook. Walter Kerr reports that he "doesn't know what all the fuss is about. I always knew Mary Martin could fly." Although very well received by critics and a following that is too big to imagine, the original production ran only 149 performances.

1977 David Mamet's valentine to the stage, A Life in the Theatre, opens tonight at the Theatre De Lys. This comedy is not only about two actors but also about mentors in general and the rites of passage between teachers and disciples. Ellis Rabb and Peter Evans star in this production, which will run 288 performances. A made-for-TV film came out in 1993 with Jack Lemmon and Matthew Broderick.

1977 Edward Gorey and Frank Langella's sets are the stars of Dracula, Hamilton Deane and John Balderston's adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel. The show ran for 925 performances. Coincidentally, this is also Bela Lugosi's birthday, who made the role famous in the 1927-28 season, as well as later on film.

1988 The Cocktail Hour by A.R. Gurney begins its 350-show run at the Promenade Theatre tonight. Nancy Marchand plays a woman whose son, played by Bruce Davison, has written a play about his family. 1992 Larry Kramer continues his AIDS drama The Normal Heart with The Destiny of Me at the Lucille Lortel Theatre. Future Hedwig and the Angry Inch star and creator John Cameron Mitchell stars tonight in this production, whose reviews will be mixed. Piper Laurie and Jonathan Hadary are also in the cast. The show will run 175 performances.

--By Sam Maher and Steve Luber