PLAYBILL THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Oct. 13-19: Love Letters for Virginia, An Arrest in Rebecca Scandal, a Closed Park

By Robert Simonson
19 Oct 2012

Danny Burstein

Danny Burstein has been enjoying the hot streak of his career in recent seasons. Ever since winning accolades and a Tony nomination for his florid turn as a Latin lover film star in The Drowsy Chaperone in 2006, he's been Broadway's go-to featured musical male, earning further Tony noms for South Pacific and Follies. But he's remained in the supporting category. (His role in Follies was a lead, yes, but one of four leads, so….)

But there's nothing supporting about his newest gig. He will be the Talley in the Roundabout Theatre Company production of Lanford Wilson's two-hander Talley's Folly. He will play opposite Sarah Paulson. The production, directed by Michael Wilson, will begin previews Off-Broadway Feb. 8, 2013, at the Laura Pels Theatre.

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In other Roundabout Theatre Company news, the Broadway revival of William Inge's Picnic will begin previews Dec. 14 at the American Airlines Theatre.

Directed by Sam Gold, the production will be led by Reed Birney as Howard Bevans, Maggie Grace as Madge Owens, Elizabeth Marvel as Rosemary Sydney, Sebastian Stan as Hal Carter, Mare Winningham as Flo Owens and Ellen Burstyn as Helen Potts.

Roundabout Theatre Company has a long history with William Inge, having produced the last Broadway production in 1994.

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Barry Edelstein
photo by Doug Gates

Barry Edelstein, who is currently the director of the Public Theater's Shakespeare Initiative in New York City, will become the artistic director of San Diego's The Old Globe beginning Nov. 1.

Edelstein has run theatre companies before. From 1998-2003, he was artistic director of Classic Stage Company Off-Broadway. He began working with the Public in 2007. Edelstein is regarded as an expert in all things Shakespeare.

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Some people just don't get the meaning of a play, even when they're producing it.

Bruce Norris' Pulitzer Prize-winning play Clybourne Park features white and African-American characters, and is largely about the subject of race relations as they change, and don't change, over the course of a half century in the same Chicago neighborhood.

The Deutsches Theatre in Berlin contracted to present the play. This week, Norris decided to revoke those rights. He had his reason. A pretty good one. Turns out that the director had cast one of the black roles with a white actress.

I'll let Norris take it from here. In an open letter to the Dramatists Guild, he said: "Disbelievingly, I contacted my agent who put me in touch with the management of Deutsches Theatre. Yes, they confirmed, it is true, we have cast a white ensemble member in this role, and we see no logical reason why we should cast an 'Afro-German.' (If you are familiar with my play at all, the reasons are self-evident.) After much evasion, justification and rationalizing of their reasons, they finally informed me that the color of the actress' skin would ultimately be irrelevant, since they intended to 'experiment with makeup.' At this point, I retracted the rights to the production."

This sort of "experimenting with makeup" is also known by the more familiar, but less anodyne, term of "blackface."

Blackface has long been decried in America and is never employed in stage productions (except when blackface or American racial history is the subject). However, it continues to be a widespread practice on the German stage.

So incendiary and absurd, the story sounds like the plot of a Bruce Norris play.