PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Aug. 28-Sept. 3: Garden Grows as White Way Withers

News   PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Aug. 28-Sept. 3: Garden Grows as White Way Withers
The best theatre in New York City during the past week took place on the streets and you didn't need a ticket for it. Protests of the Republican Convention were constant, often surprising and used every bit of Manhattan real estate. The 5,000-person "unemployment line," which stretched from Wall Street to Madison Square Garden, in particular, beat any piece of site specific performance art seen in the city in recent seasons. And New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg provided his own answer to the hit Off-Broadway show Guantanamo by creating his own law breaking, protester holding pen on Pier 57.

Observers were further thrilled by the death-defying plunge that box office receipts took during the week. The TKTS booth reported a 50 percent drop in sales. As producer Emanuel Azenberg told the New York Post, "You have to go back to the Kennedy assassination to find something that has hurt us as much as the Republicans have." The gathered elephants took in eight different sanctioned Broadway shows on Sunday, but otherwise steered clear of Times Square. So, too, did real New Yorkers and suburban dwellers, all scared off by the convention behemoth and its accompanying security and traffic headaches.

A few GOP-ers were brave enough to stray from the party's list of sanctioned shows. Former president George H.W. Bush and his wife took in Hairspray, and the New York Post coaxed two delegates to attend Avenue Q as a press stunt.

The majority of the city's theatre execs were off-island, huddling in safety at liberal resorts like the Hamptons and Martha's Vineyard. But there were enough professionals in town to result in a few orders of business.

Lincoln Center Theater tidied up its 2004-05 season. It set the dates for the two original musicals it will produce in 2005, Dessa Rose, by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, and Adam Guettel and Craig Lucas' The Light in the Piazza. Piazza will play the Vivian Beaumont beginning March 18, 2005, for an April 18 opening. Dessa Rose will fill the Mitzi E. Newhouse beginning Feb. 17 and open March 21. Also, LCT announced its full cast of its upcoming Martha Clarke piece, which has changed its name from the previously announced Nothing Is Forever to Belle Epoque. Mark Povinelli has the central role of Toulouse Lautrec.

Basil Twist's underwater puppet spectacle Symphonie Fantastique returned to New York to inaugurate the new Dodger Stages complex, starting Aug. 31. The five-stage building is still collecting tenants for its first months. Mandy Patinkin will appear with a new one-man concert, dates to be determined. Another upcoming production at Dodger Stages is a staging of Daniel Goldfarb's play Modern Orthodox. The playwright of Sarah, Sarah has seen this work staged at New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre, but never in New York. Dates and stars are yet to be set. Ensuring that there will be some Off-Broadway openings in September, a few nonprofit companies launched their seasons this week. Atlantic Theater Company's double bill of works by absurdist playwright Eugene Ionesco, in new translations by Tina Howe, began Sept. 1 with a company that includes Steven Skybell, Jan Maxwell, Seana Kofoed and Michael Countryman.

Annie Golden, Conrad John Schuck and Dashiell Eaves are in the cast of the new "comedy with songs" People Be Heard, which started at Playwrights Horizons on Aug. 31. The piece is by Quincy Long, with original music by Michael Roth. Erica Schmidt directs the work, about a small American town that becomes embroiled in a fierce debate over the teaching of Evolution in the schools, and the single mother who is unwittingly drawn into the fray.

Performances of the New York City premiere of Paula Vogel's The Oldest Profession resumed at the Signature Theatre Company on Aug. 31, with Priscilla Lopez stepping into the role first taken by Anita Gillette. Gillette dropped out due to a family matter.

Finally, smack dab in the middle of the Republican National Convention, previews began at London's Royal National Theatre for the much-trumpeted new David Hare play about the Iraq War, Stuff Happens. Nearly every major character in the Bush White House is depicted in Hare's political work. The full cast includes Adjoa Andoh as Condoleezza Rice, Desmond Barrit as Dick Cheney, Isla Blair as Laura Bush, Dermot Crowley as Donald Rumsfeld, Nicholas Farrell as Tony Blair, Alex Jennings as George W. Bush, Joe Morton as Colin Powell and Ian Gelder as Paul Wolfowitz. Nicholas Hytner directs at the Olivier Theatre.

If the show gets even mildly positive reviews, and the American military remains involved in Iraq in the months to come—Bush in the White House or no Bush in the White House—don't be surprised to see the play transfer to Broadway before the end of the season.

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