PLAYBILL THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Feb. 16-22: Miss Firecracker, Velocity, Shia LaBeouf Won't Play Broadway (For Now)

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22 Feb 2013

Shia LaBeouf
Shia LaBeouf

Not since Jeremy Piven bolted the 2008 revival of Speed-the-Plow, citing mercury poisoning from excessive sushi binging, have we had a Broadway star exit as odd and awkward as what went down this week, when "Transformers" star Shia LaBeouf  left the Broadway debut of Lyle Kessler's Orphans dramatically parted ways.

With previews scheduled to begin at the Schoenfeld Theatre on March 19, LaBeouf—who was to make his Broadway debut in this play, acting alongside Alec Baldwin and Tom Sturridge—abruptly departed, citing "creative differences," showbiz's favorite euphemism for "everything but creative differences."

And then it got strange. Being a youngster who feels comfortable with social media, LaBeouf began posting on his Twitter account several e-mails he received or sent to cast and creative team members on the production. One he apparently received Feb. 19 from director Dan Sullivan read, "I'm too old for disagreeable situations. you're one hell of a great actor. Alec is who he is. you are who you are. you two are incompatible. I should have known it. this one will haunt me. you tried to warn me. you said you were a different breed. I didn't get it. Dan."

Another e-mail, from "AB," stated, "I've been through this before. It's been a while. And perhaps some of the particulars are different. But it comes down to the fact that what we all do now is critical. Perhaps especially for you. When the change comes, how do we handle it, whether it be good or bad? What do we learn? I don't have an unkind word to say about you. You have my word."

There were also emails from Sturridge and, um, fight director Rick Sordelet. (What? Didn't the stage manager send Shia any emails?) All this digital action surely makes Orphans the first Broadway backstage drama in which Twitter has played a significant role. All the email/tweets expressed generally positive things about LeBeouf. Baldwin, a Twitter maven, seems to have tweeted nothing about the situation. However, the actor, speaking briefly by telephone to the New York Times, did say that he and everyone involved with Orphans "were 'very disappointed' that Mr. LaBeouf was publishing e-mail exchanges that they considered private."

Then it got a little stranger. LeBeouf published his full apology letter, a bit of Hemingway-esque masculine prose that ran, in part, "A man is good at his job. Not his work, not his avocation, not his hobby. Not his career. His job. A man can look you up and down and figure some things out. Before you say a word, he makes you. From your suitcase, from your watch, from your posture. A man infers."

Uh huh. Soon enough, however, New York Times writer David Itzkoff and several websites noted that LeBeouf’s email bore more than a passing similarity to a 2009 Esquire essay titled “How to Be a Man” by writer Tom Chiarella.

After all that mishegoss, the producers of Orphans finally announced that film star Ben Foster will replace Shia LaBeouf. So the show will sill open on April 7.


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