WEEK IN REVIEW, Feb. 28-March 6: Critics Don't Flip for Fish's Broadway Bow

News   WEEK IN REVIEW, Feb. 28-March 6: Critics Don't Flip for Fish's Broadway Bow
 
Larry David is used to praise. The two sitcoms he created, “Seinfeld" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm,” are recognized by critics and fans as seminal works in the history of the small screen, comic trail-blazers, and regularly, ridiculously funny and smart.

Despite the box-office buzz (and record-setting advance sales) the New York theatre critics did not feel quite the same about Fish in the Dark, his playwriting and stage acting debut. The show, about a dysfunctional family dealing (badly) with the aftermath of a family death, opened on Broadway March 5 at the Cort Theatre.

The New York Times’ Ben Brantley wrote, “Mr. David has written a play that, four-letter language aside, feels like a throwback to the mid-1960s, when Neil Simon was king of the punch line."

Time Out New York said, "David's contribution is mainly to be himself, the Everyputz he played on ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’: cheerfully cynical, blithely petty and amazed that anyone should be offended by his honesty.”

David had told Playbill that he is indeed playing himself, saying, "It's me, with a different name. But not quite as sociopathic as the guy I play on television."

Other reviews noted that there were a good share of yuks in the production and it that’s what you’re after, you’d be satisfied. As USA Today put it, “What, you were expecting Chekhov?”

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What would action star Bruce Willis be like as a stage actor?

We’re about to find out. The “Die Hard” actor is going to star in a new stage adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Misery, written by William Goldman, the legendary screenwriter who penned the script to the 1990 film version of the book that starred James Caan and Kathy Bates.

Bruce Willis
Bruce Willis

Willis will play a novelist who is held captive in a cabin by one of his greatest (and craziest) fans. He’ll get some pro help from his co-star, theatre vet Elizabeth Marvel. The play will be directed by Will Frears and arrive on Broadway in fall 2015.

The play made its world premiere at Bucks County Playhouse in the fall of 2012.

Goldman has had a distinguished career in Hollywood. His other screenplays include "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "All the President's Men.” He’s also the author of the 1969 book “The Season,” a famous skewering of the way Broadway functions. This will be his first return to the Great White Way since that tell-all came out. To those stage types who are still smarting from his candid assessments (and are still alive) — you have been alerted!

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The Octoroon may be enjoying its most successful run in New York since the Dion Boucicault’s melodrama debuted in 1859, when it proved so popular that seven road companies criss-crossed the nation simultaneously. The Theatre for a New Audience-Soho Rep co-production has extended. Originally scheduled to close March 8, performances will now run through March 29.

To be fair, this isn’t exactly Boucicault’s original, about a love affair between the white heir to a Louisiana plantation and a woman who is one-eighth black (an octoroon). It’s a very free and avant garde adaptation by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, so much so it can be considered a completely different play.

Directed by Sarah Benson, the production has played to sold-out houses at TFNA in Brooklyn since it began previews Feb. 14. The play was originally produced by Soho Rep in 2014, where it had two extensions and a sold-out engagement.

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And you thought the reclamation of old Times Square theatres was so 1990s. The Liberty Theatre on W. 41st Street, it was announced, will be transformed into a site-specific and immersive theatrical experience called “Speakeasy Dollhouse: Ziegfeld's Midnight Frolic.” (Sounds haunted-house scary.) The interactive show will re-imagine Florenz Ziegfeld's lavish 1910-20's revues of the same title.

“Speakeasy Dollhouse: Ziegfeld's Midnight Frolic” is the third interactive show in the Speakeasy Dollhouse series from author, artist and playwright Cynthia von Buhler. Performances will run April 18-May 9.

According to press notes, "Guests can step into a reimagining of Ziegfeld's 1920’s extravaganza The Midnight Frolic, replete with showgirls, burlesque, aerialists and – of course – plenty of spirits. At the center of the story is the mysterious 1920 poisoning death of silent film star and Ziegfeld Girl, Olive Thomas, and the subsequent destruction of her husband, movie star, Jack Pickford.”

Like I said: spooky.

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