PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 17-23: Starry Lineup for Shakespeare in the Park and Eno to Exit Broadway

You'd think New York would be all King Lear-ed out by now. After a while, critics stopped counting how many times the old man raged on the heath last season.

John Lithgow
John Lithgow

But the biggest — and certainly the free-est — version of the Shakespeare tragedy is yet to come. The Public Theater will present Lear in Central Park July 22-Aug. 17. It's the first time the play has been staged in the Delacorte Theatre since 1973, when James Earl Jones played the title role.

This time, John Lithgow portrays the pompous, short-sighted old tyrant. And he's got some pretty formidable daughters. Annette Bening and Jessica Hecht are the meanies, Goneril and Regan, while Jessica Collins is the loyal, unappreciated Cordelia.

Other roles are filled by Steven Boyer (Fool), Chukwudi Iwuji (Edgar), Clarke Peters (Gloucester), Jay O. Sanders (Kent) and Eric Sheffer Stevens (Edmund). Dan Sullivan directs, because, well, it's Central Park, it's summer and he's Dan Sullivan. Where else would he be?

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A planned Broadway revival of Maury Yeston and Peter Stone's Tony Award-winning musical Titanic has hit an iceberg. (Sorry — had to say it.)

The revival, which was to play a pre-Broadway engagement at Toronto's Royal Alexandra Theatre this summer prior to a New York return in the fall, has been postponed due to a lack of an appropriate port in a storm (Sorry!) — that is, an available theatre.

In early January, Tony Award-winning producers Barry and Fran Weissler, along with David Mirvish, announced plans to bring a new production of Titanic to Broadway, inspired by the acclaimed chamber production of the musical that played London's Southwark Playhouse last year. U.K. director Thom Southerland was attached to helm.

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Toni Collette and Michael C. Hall
Photo by Joan Marcus

The Broadway premiere of playwright Will Eno's The Realistic Joneses, which stars Michael C. Hall, Toni Collette, Marisa Tomei and Tracy Letts, will close on Broadway July 6, producers announced May 20.

The production, which officially opened April 6 at the Lyceum Theatre, will have played 27 previews and 105 performances when it ends its run. The Broadway engagement was not billed as a limited run; however, tickets had only been on sale through July 6.

The Realistic Joneses was Eno's Broadway debut, and it became easily the most divisive offering of the spring Broadway season. The show split critics, and apparently rubbed the Tony Awards nominating committee — which ignored it — the wrong way. It did, however, earn Drama Desk Award, Drama League Award and Outer Critics Circle Award nominations and has been performing fairly well at the box office.

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The Vineyard Theatre, playwright Nicky Silver and actress Linda Lavin are back together, and the result — the world-premiere production of Silver's Too Much Sun — which also stars Jennifer Westfeldt, officially opened May 18. Mark Brokaw directed, as he did with the previous Silver-Lavin collaboration, The Lyons, which transferred to Broadway.

In Too Much Sun, Ms. Lavin portrays Audrey Langham, a celebrated actress who unravels completely while preparing for a new production of Medea. Westfeldt plays her daughter, to whose seaside house Audrey retreats.

Reviews were mixed. Time Out New York rather liked the play, noting, " Too Much Sun finds the bitterly hilarious playwright in a kinder, melancholic — dare I say — semi-Chekhovian mood." The Daily News, however, said, "This unfocused glimpse at sick psyches and family dysfunction disappoints, especially given Silver’s very good last work, The Lyons." The New York Times split the difference, admitting the writer's flaw in advance, before going on to give the production a partially positive review. "Mr. Silver… has always combined show-off juvenile cleverness with a mature philosophical melancholy; his unevenness is as immense as his talents," the paper said. "His latest work shows evidence of both of these aspects."

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Over in London, the very-British Old Vic will get a very-British artistic director, finally. Matthew Warchus will succeed American actor Kevin Spacey at the helm of the London institution, taking over in fall 2015 when Spacey steps down.

Warchus, who has been on a hot streak for a few seasons, is a natural choice for the job. He is currently an artistic associate at the theatre, where he has previously directed Spacey in David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow in 2008 and a revival of Alan Ayckbourn's The Norman Conquests that subsequently transferred to Broadway. He is currently represented in the West End and on Broadway by Matilda The Musical.

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Elsewhere in London, Cameron Mackintosh added two more West End theatres to his theatrical stable, with the acquisition of the Victoria Palace and Ambassadors Theatres, bringing his theatre-owning portfolio (under the group name Delfont Mackintosh) to nine venues.

The Ambassadors will be renamed the Sondheim Theatre, making Stephen Sondheim perhaps the only artist to have theatres named after him both on Broadway and in the West End.