PLAYBILL THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, June 9-15: Tony Roundup, Susan Stroman and Woody Allen, Mamet-Mania!

By Robert Simonson
15 Jun 2012

Giancarlo Esposito and Ron Cephas Jones
Photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia

At the Atlantic Theater Company, John Patrick Shanley directed the world premiere of his Bronx-set Storefront Church, the third play of his trilogy that began with the Pulitzer Prize-winning Doubt. (It was originally called, more portentously, Sleeping Demon.) The cast included Bob Dishy, Giancarlo Esposito, Zach Grenier, Ron Cephas Jones, Jordan Lage and Tonya Pinkins.

Critics found the play imperfect, but one that beared watching. The Times called it "unwieldy but affecting." The Daily News thought it was "modestly intriguing but lacks the taut, fine-tuned storytelling that made Doubt so compelling and provocative." Entertainment Weekly said it "veers more toward the sententious than the sentimental. The characters feel like proxies rather than flesh-and-blood humans, and the situations in which Shanley places them too often strain credulity," while Variety stated "this final installment is wordy, unfocused and unresolved." Time Out was more approving: "Shanley might direct his work too gently and reverently, but his lovely actors fully inhabit their gentle, flawed, broken people. We taste bitterness, but also much that is sweet."

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Critics were much more enamored of Gina Gionfriddo's Rapture, Blister, Burn, which opened at Playwrights Horizons. The Times called the drama about two female friends who made different life choices "intensely smart, immensely funny." Time Out said it "keeps an impressive balance as its surfs several waves of feminism." And more than one critic called is Heidi Chronicles for 2012. Remember what happened when Heidi bowed at PH to raves? Rapture might have a future.

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Hope springs eternal in the theatre, so the formal closing of the books on the 2011-12 season was followed with furious plans for the 2012-13 season.

A revised production The Killing of Sister George—the seldom-seen 1964 Frank Marcus comedy about a stubborn and bawdy radio actress who discovers her character is about to be killed off—directed by and starring Kathleen Turner, is eyeing an Off-Broadway run, according to an Equity casting notice.

Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher is taking on the strange task of adapting a play that is already a play, and already in English. Go figure. It will debut at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, CT, Nov. 28-Dec. 23.

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Susan Stroman
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

It was announced June 14 that Susan Stroman will direct and choreograph the world premiere of the new musical Bullets Over Broadway during the 2013-14 Broadway season. The work is based on Woody Allen's movie of the same name and will utilize existing music of the 1920s time period. In fall 2013, it had already been announced that she was choreographing an co-directing Prince of Broadway, with Harold Prince. Send in the clones!

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Broadway saw a new production of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross just seven years ago. But when Al Pacino wants to play Shelly Levene, you just go ahead and stage another. Previews will begin Oct. 16 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre with an official opening Nov. 11. Mamet's Man in Times Square, Jeffrey Richards, produced the 2005 revival and he will produce this one, too.

Al Pacino has a habit of doing this sort of thing with Mamet. The playwright's American Buffalo debuted on Broadway in 1977, with Robert Duvall playing the central role of Teach. Six years later, the play was back, with Big Al playing Teach.

Pacino also starred in the film version of Glengarry. He played Ricky Roma that time around.

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More Mamet news. The writer's prison-set, two-woman drama The Anarchist, starring Patti LuPone and Debra Winger, will play Broadway's Lyceum Theatre beginning Nov. 13. LuPone's an inmate, Winger is the warden. Mamet will direct.

Who's producing? One guess.

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Did you guess right? Well, that same guy is also busy recasting his Broadway revival of The Best Man. Cybill Shepherd, Kristin Davis, John Stamos and Elizabeth Ashley will step into the roles currently played by, respectively, Candice Bergen, Kerry Butler, Eric McCormack and Angela Lansbury. (Ashley actually played Lansbury's role in the 2000 Broadway revival of the drama.)

This will mean that, by the end of the production's run, John Larroquette, as a wavering President candidate, will have played a man who insists he does not want to bed either Candice Bergen and Cybill Shepherd. Now that's acting.