PLAYBILL THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Sept. 22-28: An Enemy of the People, Sweet Bird of Youth, and a New Playwriting Prize

By Robert Simonson
28 Sep 2012

Finn Wittrock and Diane Lane
Photo by Liz Lauren

Speaking of David Cromer, his new production of Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth, starring Diane Lane as a fading Hollywood starlet and Finn Wittrock as her equally desperate gigolo, opened Sept. 24 following previews from Sept. 14 at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago.

The production has generated interest enough to get the New York Times' Ben Brantley flown out for the opening. Like the Chicago critics, he was mixed on the staging, but high on Lane. "Her scarily intelligent performance in David Cromer's insightful production of the fatally lopsided Sweet Bird suggests she has kept her eyes and ears wide open on the job," wrote Brantley. "More than any portrait that I've seen of Alexandra (a.k.a. the Princess Kosmonopolis), this one gives full weight to both the warping and sustaining effects of a life lived, desperately and adoringly, in front of the mirror and the camera." The Tribune echoed the assessment, saying, "Diane [Lane's] richly textured performance is a needed anchor for director David Cromer's passionate, arresting and unwieldy Goodman Theatre production."

Broadway hasn't seen a Sweet Bird in decades. Will it now? Time will tell.



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Rebecca star Jill Paice

The fact that a Broadway musical's cast is beginning rehearsals is usually not news. But when the show in question is the star-crossed musical Rebecca, it merits mention.

The cast of the rehearsal-delayed show was informed by producers in a Sept. 26 email that rehearsals would commence on Oct. 1, indicating that the show's previously reported capitalization issues are expected to be cleared up. A $4.5 million shortfall in funding prompted lead producers to postpone the start of rehearsals by two weeks. The producers said that an unnamed overseas investor responsible for that money had died. Rehearsals were to have begun Sept. 10 toward a Nov. 18 opening at the Broadhurst Theatre. Previews were scheduled to begin Oct. 30. New first-preview and opening dates are expected to be announced.

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Classic Stage Company's Chekhov productions of recent years have proved immensely popular. Sometimes even the press can't get in. (Ahem.) The upcoming production of Ivanov, starring Ethan Hawke, is no exception. The show has extended two additional weeks, to Dec. 9. Previews under the direction of Austin Pendleton begin Oct. 17. Pendleton directed the Three Sisters and Uncle Vanya for CSC.

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Mention of the name Senator Ted Kennedy evokes many thoughts and ideas. Theatre is not typically one of them.

And yet, Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith and Columbia University have announced the establishment of The Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History (EMK Prize). The award was created by Smith to honor the life and legacy of her late brother.

The EMK Prize—which carries a hefty $100,000 cash gift—will be given annually through the Columbia University Libraries to a new play or musical of merit that, in the words of the Prize's mission statement, "enlists theatre's power to explore the past of the United States, to participate meaningfully in the great issues of our day through the public conversation, grounded in historical understanding, that is essential to the functioning of a democracy." The first recipient of the EMK Prize will be announced on Senator Kennedy's birthday, Feb. 22, 2013.