PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, July 26-Aug. 1: Critics Enjoy Sex with Strangers, and Love Letters Will Make Starry Return

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01 Aug 2014

Benedict Cumberbatch
Benedict Cumberbatch

Fans of the enormously successful BBC series "Sherlock" will have to wait a while for their next fix of the addictive re-imagining of the Arthur Conan Doyle detective stories. However, those fans who are lucky enough to live in London will be able to get a little "Sherlock" by proxy, as both of the series' stars, Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch, are appearing on the London stage.

In a canny bit of casting, given his cuddly, likable screen persona, Martin Freeman, who plays Watson in "Sherlock," began performances July 1 in the title role of Richard III. The show is the opening production of the second season for Trafalgar Transformed at the West End's Trafalgar Studios. It will run through Sept. 27. Jamie Lloyd directs.

Beginning Aug. 6, 2015, meanwhile, Cumberbatch will take on the title role in Hamlet at London's Barbican Theatre, with Lyndsey Turner.

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Starry folk will be writing Love Letters on Broadway this season.



Back in the late '80s, the epistolary two-hander was a wee Off-Broadway offering at the Promenade Theatre and, later, on Broadway at the intimate Edison.

The A.R. Gurney drama, featuring (as it always has) a rotating cast of seasoned stars, will begin previews Sept. 13 at the Nederlander Theatre, currently the home of the Disney musical Newsies. That dozen of dancing newsboys replaced by two aging Yankee letter-writers, folks.

Directed by Gregory Mosher, the production will officially open Sept. 18 at 7 PM starring Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow. Others scheduled for limited engagements include Alan Alda, Candice Bergen, Carol Burnett, Anjelica Huston, Stacy Keach, Diana Rigg and Martin Sheen.

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Sex With Strangers, the new Laura Eason play starring Anna Gunn and Billy Magnussen, opened this week to largely positive reviews. Critics found the play—about two very different writers who find themselves drawn to one another—incisive and polished, and the two lead performances excellent. The show quickly extended by one week, and is now set to close Aug. 31.

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Allison Williams

NBC attracted a lot of attention, not all of it good, when it cast country music star Carrie Underwood as Maria in its television production of The Sound of Music Live! in 2013. And, it netted the same split reaction with its casting of the lead in that successful broadcast's follow-up, Peter Pan Live!

Playing the ageless, flying boy will be Allison Williams, who is best known—well, solely known—for playing Marnie Michaels, the tallest and prettiest of the self-absorbed, dissolute foursome whose misadventures make up the plot of Lena Dunham's successful and controversial series "Girls." To say her casting is a break from the petite, tomboyish, Mary Martin-Sandy Duncan-Cathy Rigby tradition is an understatement.

Also in the cast will be Christopher Walken as Captain Hook. Which is a story in itself.

"Allison Williams is a major find," said executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, gazing into their crystal balls, in a statement. "She will reinvent the iconic role of Peter Pan with her wit, her warmth, her dynamic flying and her wonderful musical abilities. The score will be sung beautifully and introduced to a whole new generation of families."

The show is scheduled to air Dec. 4.

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High ticket demand has prompted the Lincoln Center Festival to add an additional performance of the anticipated Sydney Theatre Company production of The Maids, starring actress Cate Blanchett.

When tickets went on sale in late March, Lincoln Center Festival broke records for first day of single ticket sales for the 2014 festival, taking in $704,000 at the box office.

An additional 2 PM matinee on Aug. 9 has now been added to the 13-performance Lincoln Center Festival run of The Maids, which is scheduled to play a limited Aug. 6-16 engagement at New York City Center. Also starring is Isabelle Huppert.