PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Dec. 28-Jan. 3: Spider-Man Honored Prior to Closing and New Plays Set to Open Off-Broadway
By Robert Simonson
Though it is set to close Jan. 4, the Broadway production of Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark continues to generously provide the press with stories. Over this quiet New Year's Eve week alone, the troubled musical churned out two news items.
Producers announced that no lesser museum than the Smithsonian Institution would induct the Spider-Man costume worn by the musical's original star, Reeve Carney, into the permanent collection of its National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
Well, when you think of it, Spider-Man is sort of a historical production.
The honor will coincide with the production's final performance on Broadway, taking place Jan. 4 at the Foxwoods Theatre.
Carney's custom-printed spandex suit was designed for his exact dimensions by the late costume designer Eiko Ishioka, who was nominated for a 2011 Tony Award for her work on the show.
Producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris said in a statement, "The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History is the premier archive of iconic American artifacts. We are honored that they have decided to cement the production's place in the American popular culture canon."
A smaller, but even more entertaining Spider-Man story came from Joe Allen, the famous Times Square restaurateur. Though Spider-Man, which underwent the longest preview period in Broadway history and faced many obstacles on its road to opening night, will close at a monumental financial loss, Allen said it will not join the ranks of the infamous "flop wall" of his eponymous restaurant in Manhattan.
A statement from Joe Allen read, "A lot of people have been asking if we are going to put Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark on the flop wall, so let me say, once and for all: absolutely not. Any show that plays for three years on Broadway, providing steady employment to members of the theatre community and pumping money into the local economy, is no failure in my book."
Honored by the Smithsonian; not honored by Joe Allen. Chalk this up as a good week for Spider-Man.
Playwright Samuel D. Hunter had a sleeper hit with his 2012 Off-Broadway play The Whale at Playwrights Horizons. A modest critical success, it nonetheless went on to receive several awards nominations at the end of the season, including a Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play. 2014 will be a busy year for the writer.
The world premiere of A Great Wilderness, a new play by Hunter, will be presented by Seattle Repertory Theatre beginning Jan. 17. Performances will continue through Feb. 16 in the Leo K. Theatre.
Directed by associate artistic director Braden Abraham, the cast includes Michael Winters, Gretchen Krich, Mari Nelson, R. Hamilton Wright, Christine Estabrook and Jack Taylor.
Just as The Whale dealt with an uncomfortable subject not typically seen on the stage — the morbid obesity of the central character, whose compulsions and weight have cut him off from society — A Great Wilderness tackles thorny social issues. It centers on Walt, a man who has devoted his life to counseling teenage boys out of their homosexuality at his remote Idaho wilderness camp.
Another new Hunter play, Rest, will open soon afterwards at South Coast Rep. This one is set in a nursing home in northern Idaho that is shutting down. Only three patients remain, and one of them, Gerald, is 91, suffering from Alzheimers and has wandered off. In the midst of a record-breaking blizzard, the search for Gerald takes an unexpected turn. The play runs March 28-April 27.
In other new play news, Breathing Time, a new drama by Farragut North and "House of Cards" writer Beau Willimon, will have its world premiere beginning March 21 at Teatro Iati in New York City.
Fault Line Theatre will present Breathing Time, which is about two bankers, "one reckless and larger than life, the other responsible and grounded," and two women in their lives, one a struggling dancer trying to make ends meet, and one a suburban mother doing her best to raise a young son.
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