PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, April 19-25: Another Opening... Or Six

By Robert Simonson
25 Apr 2014

Daniel Radcliffe
Photo by Johan Persson
As for the production and the play, the majority of reviewers admired it as well. Hollywood Reporter called it a "cracking production, which makes an entertainingly boozy brew of humor both sweet and savage, melancholy sentimentality, lacerating sorrow and wicked cruelty." A dissenting voice came from Time Out New York, which wrote, "six years ago, I actually liked the play. But supersizing it for Broadway, Grandage does the brittle comedy no favors. McDonagh just doesn't have much to say, only romantic conventions to cynically flip over."

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The least ballyhooed of the week's openings, Eric Coble's new family drama The Velocity of Autumn, starring Estelle Parsons and Stephen Spinella, opened at the Booth Theatre April 21. Molly Smith, who directed the play — about Alexandra, a 79-year-old artist in a violent showdown with her family over where she'll spend her remaining years — at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., also helmed the Broadway production.

In general, the critics liked the performers far more than the play, which they found formulaic and cliched. The main question was whether they thought the performances made the production worthwhile or not. The Times thought they did: "While the conversation occasionally strays into unprofitable byways, the play passes by breezily because Ms. Parsons is such fun to watch." AP agreed, saying, "Both of these pros imbue their characters with genuine poignancy, rueful humor and their own adept timing. Molly Smith's deft direction also creates a sense of urgency during the 90-minute showdown about a seeming no-win situation."



However, many more thought the tedium of the play outweighed the attraction of the actors. The Hollywood Reporter said of Parsons, "the Oscar-winning actress delivers a memorable turn in an otherwise forgettable, schematic play." And Newsday declared, "Even with actors the caliber of Parsons and Spinella, however, this is a once-over-lightly insult to a subject that deserves so much more than a mechanical showcase for gold-standard performers."

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The Broadway premiere of the John Cameron Mitchell-Stephen Trask rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, starring TV star and frequent Tony Awards host Neil Patrick Harris, was arguably the most anticipated opening of the week, owing to the verve and unorthodox un-Broadway vibe of the piece and the likability of its star. It was unveiled on Broadway April 22 at the Belasco Theatre.

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