The old was Shaw's much-analyzed and admired, but seldom seen impressionistic masterwork, Heartbreak House, a venture of the Roundabout Theatre Company , opening Oct. 10. Some critics had quibbles with director Robin Lefevre's production and some of the performers, but how much can one argue against the likes of Philip Bosco, Swoosie Kurtz and Byron Jennings . And, so, most thumbs pointed skyward, with quite a few voices going out of their way to commend Lily Rabe as a new rising star of the New York stage.
The other opening was the next day, and, oh, what difference a day makes. Disgusted en masse, the critics mainly used Simon Mendes da Costa 's Losing Louie as a practice target for their sharpest critical darts, with many asking once more of the unlucky Biltmore: what's a nice theatre like you doing with a play like this?
Judging from the reviews, Broadway may soon see Des McAnuff 's new production of the musical The Wiz , which opened at La Jolla Playhouse Oct. 11. The critic at Variety said, "To call the La Jolla Playhouse production of The Wiz a mere revival is to understate the accomplishment of helmer Des McAnuff and his production team. They have rethought, rescaled and reshaped an uneven musical play of historical importance but modest virtues into a joyful, stunningly entertaining circus of spectacle, soul and heart." Believe me: it's hard to get a critic that happy.
Also working in McAnuff's favor, transfer-wise, is that his most recent Broadway credit was the huge money-maker Jersey Boys . And the revival has a name star of sorts, David Alan Grier , as The Wiz himself. ***
The major Off-Broadway opening of the week was Neil LaBute 's Wrecks , starring Ed Harris as a chain-smoking, monologue-spinning, grieving widower with enough going on inside to keep both Sophocles and Freud interested. The critical community's reaction seemed to indicate they were a little LaBute-weary—the man simply won't stop opening plays—but many admired the skill of Harris' performance.
Finally, over at Chicago , music star Usher got a cough, and so the box office had to cough up nearly half a mil in refunds to theatregoers hoping to see the R&B dreamboat's last few performance. Still, the producers will have made a profit on the Usher run.