PLAYBILL THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 5-11: The Other Place, Water By the Spoonful, Bette Midler On Broadway

By Robert Simonson
11 Jan 2013

Zabryna Guevara in Water By the Spoonful.
Photo by Richard Termine

Opening Off-Broadway was Water By the Spoonful, the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Quiara Alegría Hudes. The Second Stage mounting starred Armando Riesco, Liza Colon-Zayas and Zabryna Guevara. Davis McCallum, who also helmed the world premiere in Hartford, returned to stage the New York City premiere of the drama, which centers on an American solider who returns home from the Iraq War, and is the second part of a trilogy by Hudes.

So, did it deserve the Pulitzer? The Times called it a "moving collage of lives" that "gives off a shimmering, sustaining warmth. Ms. Hudes writes with such empathy and vibrant humor about people helping one another to face down their demons that regeneration and renewal always seem to be just around the corner." Hollywood Reporter called the work "discursive, jarring at times, even chaotic. But the poignancy and thoughtfulness of the playwright's observations on addiction, family, forgiveness and human connection build a stealth impact." Backstage, however, found that "this uncontestably warm and generous play is hampered by conventional plotting and engaging but predictable characters."

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Coming to Off-Broadway in February will be Ike Holter's rock-propelled gay rights drama Hit the Wall, which premiered at Chicago's Steppenwolf Garage Theatre last winter. It will debut Off-Broadway Feb. 19 at the Barrow Street Theatre — just yards from where the Stonewall Riot that gives the play its story took place in 1969.

Hit the Wall focuses on that wild and enigmatic first night of the riots, outside New York City's Stonewall Inn on June 27, 1969, which many regard as having given birth of the gay rights movement. The play, which was shaped and populated by the artist collective The Inconvenience, and features a live band, was a Chicago hit.

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The new McCarter Theatre Center staging of Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance has a cast that wouldn't look out of place on Broadway.

Penny Fuller recently joined a cast that already included Kathleen Chalfant, John Glover and Roberta Maxwell.

Emily Mann will direct the piece, which will begin performances at the New Jersey venue Jan. 18.

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Frank Rich and Stephen Sondheim can't seem to quit each other.

The connection between the composer and the former New York Times drama critic began back in the early '70s when then-college-student Rich wrote an insightful review of Sondheim's Follies which proved helpful to the creative team of the then-aborning musical. They have stayed connected ever since. Rich reviewed the Sondheim premieres that fell within his 1980-1993 reign as the New York Times' chief theatre critic, including Sunday in the Park with George, the initial success of which can largely be crediting to Rich's constant championing of the piece. When Sondheim turned 70, Rich penned a sprawling profile in the New York Times Magazine. It included a now-famous sidebar called "Songs I Wish I'd Written," in which Sondheim cherry-picked tunes by other that he admired over the years. The feature was later transformed into a cabaret show by Barbara Cook.

Now Rich — who is best known today as a leading liberal political columnist and pundit — is producing a new documentary the composer-lyricist for HBO. Rich signed a deal with HBO in 2008 to begin creating content for the cable network. A release date for the Sondheim documentary has not been announced. That will give Rich the Producer plenty of time to consider whether he should interview Rich the Sondheim Expert for the film.