The two have stage history, though some years have passes since their last teaming: Tyson and Jones first appeared on a Broadway stage in 1966 in A Hand Is On The Gate; they also starred in the long-running Off-Broadway production of Jean Genet’s The Blacks, a play that launched the careers of many notable African-American stage actors.
No one forgot that the play is "a slip of a thing," as Variety put it. But critics found the old two-hander was given fresh new life by its esteemed players.
"James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson, who are playing these roles in the excellent Broadway revival of Mr. Coburn’s flinty comedy," wrote the Times, "still seem to be in their glowing prime, actors with long and distinguished careers behind them who nevertheless keep seeking further heights to scale." The AP called the production "handsome and beautifully acted… Watching them together is a sheer honor."
"Like the principals in any other romantic comedy, the stars handle this relationship with delicacy, restraint and great wit… Both stars play to their strengths in Leonard Foglia’s beautifully paced production." Hollywood Reporter added, "What keeps the slender piece engaging is the delicate dance between Jones and Tyson."
All told, the notices were among the best Jones and Tyson have gotten in their long careers.
The Public Theater’s New York premiere of Eclipsed, starring Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o ("12 Years a Slave"), officially opened this week. The Danai Gurira’s play, about a group of women being held captive in Liberia. The play is described as "a feminist reading of the Liberian Civil War, a war that was ended by women."
The critics were approving. "Dark though its subject matter is," wrote the Times, "Eclipsed has moments of warmth and even humor, as the women try to buoy one another’s spirits and maintain some modicum of civilization." Variety called it "a searing drama about the decisive role women played in the second Liberian civil war…superbly director by Leisl Tommy and powerfully acted by a strong ensemble." Variety called Gurira "a playwright of uncommon ambition."
Boston’s Huntington Theatre Company has a potential hit on its hands, perhaps fueled by forlorn "Parks and Recreation" fans who miss the cult sitcom that ended its run earlier this year.
The nonprofit added a week to the limited run of its stage adaptation of the Pulitzer-winning novel A Confederacy of Dunces, starring Nick Offerman, best known as the principled, anti-government, pro-meat, mustache-wearing Libertarian Ron Swanson on "Parks and Recreation." Julie Halston, Arnie Burton and Anita Gillette recently joined the cast as well.
Offerman, who has acted and worked backstage extensively in Chicago theatres (he co-founded the Defiant Theatre company in that city), will play the lead in the play adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher from the 1980 novel by John Kennedy O’Toole about an oddball named Ignatius Jacques Reilly who lives at home with his mom (Gillette) and has adventures in and around New Orleans in his quest to land a job.
Is playwright Sarah Ruhl, the critic’s-darling author of gently avant garde plays, looking for her own Love Letters?
Women's Project Theatre will present the Off-Broadway premiere of Dear Elizabeth, Ruhl's two-hander. The play is pieced together from the real-life letters of acclaimed poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell.
The show will have a rotating cast of actors, including Cherry Jones, Kathleen Chalfant, J. Smith-Cameron and John Douglas Thompson. The line-up kicks off Oct. 26–31 with Chalfant and Harris Yulin. Jones will be paired with David Aaron Baker.
If you needed more proof that anything the hit musical Hamilton does came makes news, consider this. Often, shows put out a press release proclaimed they have earned back their investment and are now profitable. This week, Hamilton managed to generate a headline out of the fact that it had returned a quarter of that in profit to its investors.