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

Amy Morton and Tracy Letts
Amy Morton and Tracy Letts
Photo by Michael Brosilow

Few playwrights are afforded the privilege of learning whether their work has stood the test of time before they pass on to the other side. Edward Albee is one of the lucky ones. He wrote his magnum opus Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? fully 50 years ago. This week, he learned first-hand that the play still impressed and thrilled the critics a half-century after its birth.

The new Broadway production stars Tracy Letts and Amy Morton as George and Martha, a college-town husband and wife team, and Carrie Coon and Madison Dirks as Honey and Nick, their very unfortunate guests. The staging first surfaced in late 2010 at Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, under the direction of Pam MacKinnon.

The reviews were those things that theatre types like to call (apparently approvingly) "raves." "The soul ache this superlative staging leaves behind is accompanied by a feeling far more emotionally enriching: the exhilaration of a fresh encounter with a great work of theater revitalized anew," wrote the New York Times. Hollywood Reporter appraised the effort thusly: "This superlative 50th anniversary revival shows that Edward Albee's marital-warfare masterwork remains in a class of its own." Bloomberg said, "Credit MacKinnon and her perfectly synchronized quartet for executing the play not as an allegory but as a real- time excursion into lives made unbearably common by compromise and self-delusion. It’s unforgiving, and it’s also unforgettable."

Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune also weighed in, saying, "MacKinnon's production, which essentially re-claims the work from its post-Hollywood identity — of a vehicle for a diva dangling on the edge and her handsome, self-loathing husband — is an ideal way to pay tribute to Albee. It banishes the image of Elizabeth Taylor (or even Kathleen Turner's) Martha and substitutes Morton's more vulnerable, down-to-earth characterization of the daughter of a college president and a woman who plays games, lashes out and ties herself in knots, but all in the service of keeping a lid on the dangerously disappointed, and thus dangerously destructive, guy she married and clearly still loves...Morton and Letts together convey, better than any of the other actors I've seen in this familiar drama, the essentially smallness of George and Martha's suffocating little republic, a dominion that can never reach beyond themselves."



The reviews led, by week's end, to a month-long extension in the production's limited run.

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Ben Sprecher

The tragic-comic tale of Rebecca: The Musical had its first arrest this week.

The FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office charged Long Island businessman Mark Hotton with defrauding the producers of the Broadway show by fabricating the prospect of $4.5 million in financing commitments, the agencies announced on Oct. 15. Hotton was arrested the same day.

Hotton is the shifty figure who cooked up the names of fictional businessman Paul Abrams and three other overseas investors, and then sold the phantom four to Rebecca producer Ben Sprecher, who never bothered to meet or phone any of the money men. (The others, for the record—and for your entertainment—were "Roger Thomas, of St. Peter Port, Guernsey; Julian Spencer, of Crocker Hill, Chichester, Sussex; and Walter Timmons, of London, United Kingdom." Love that one of the fake angels lives on the isle of Guernsey.)

Hotton was serving as a middleman between producers and supposed investors of the shuttered musical, and was to get more than $60,000 in fees and commissions for the introduction, according to the unsealed complaint. The sudden loss of the money from investors that Hotton allegedly promised resulted in the shutdown of the production, resulting in the loss of at least 100 jobs related to the musical.

Hotton is also charged with a second fraudulent scheme in which he tricked a Connecticut-based real estate company into paying him and entities he controlled $750,000 by using some of the same deceptions he employed in the Rebecca scheme, the law charged. He is charged with two counts of wire fraud. He faces a maximum term of 20 years in prison on each count.

Producers of Rebecca said they are planning to file a $100 million lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court against Hotton, charging he took tens of thousands of dollars in advances on commissions for bringing in non-existent backers. It may be the only way that Sprecher & Co. will ever make money off this show.

 Continued...