PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Feb. 1-7: Remembering Philip Seymour Hoffman and Broadway’s Latest Opening

By Robert Simonson
07 Feb 2014

Audra McDonald
photo by Autumn de Wilde
Erstwhile talk show host, Academy Award nominee, Broadway producer and all-around entertainment deity Oprah Winfrey is in talks to make her Broadway debut in a revival of Marsha Norman's Pulitzer Prize-winning two-hander 'night, Mother, opposite five-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald, according to the New York Times.

Norman, it should be remembered, penned the book to The Color Purple, on which Winfrey was lead producer. In 'night, Mother — which was revived on Broadway as recently as 2004 — Winfrey would play the mother struggling to stop her daughter from committing suicide. McDonald would play the daughter (though it's hard to imagine the hearty, vibrant McDonald playing someone beaten down by life). The production would mark Winfrey's Broadway debut.

George C. Wolfe would direct 'night, Mother, which is aiming for a Broadway bow in the 2015-16 season, according to theatre executives. Scott Sanders is lead producer. If Winfrey is willing, Sanders should go out an apply for a license to mint money. He'll need it.

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The sole Broadway opening this week was Bronx Bombers, the new Eric Simonson drama about the history of the New York Yankees framed through the eyes of baseball legend. It officially opened Feb. 6 at Circle in the Square.

This is the third sports play from Simonson and producers Fran Kirmser and Tony Ponturo in as many seasons. It follows Lombardi (football) and Magic/Bird (basketball). (Full disclosure: The playwright is this writer's brother).

Critics weren't won over by Lombardi or Magic/Bird, and Bronx Bombers seemed to do nothing to change their minds. Reviews complained of a lack of drama and an over-abundance of Yankees idolatry. And the corporate presence of the Yankees and MLB as producers grated on more than one reviewer.

"The drama inherent in clashing egos gives Bronx Bombers some natural juice in the early innings," wrote the New York Times, "but the suspense about whether Martin will be axed — and Berra will agree to replace him — more or less gets benched in the play's second act."

AP observed that "Simonson…also directs Bronx Bombers, and he does so with such reverence to the baseball franchise that it veers into fairy tale. Major League Baseball and the New York Yankees put money in the show, and it shows."

 Continued...