PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, April 24-30: A Five-Show Finish to the Season

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, April 24-30: A Five-Show Finish to the Season
Next week, the Tony Award nominations will be announced. That means that this week there was the usual mad rush to open Broadway shows before the Tony cutoff date.
Scenes from Promises, Promises; Fences; Enron; Collected Stories and Everyday Rapture
Scenes from Promises, Promises; Fences; Enron; Collected Stories and Everyday Rapture Photo by Joan Marcus; Carol Rosegg (<i>Everyday Rapture</i>)

Five days, five openings, including a little bit from most every category: musical revival, play revival, something from London, and a couple nonprofit things. Let's take it from the top, shall we?

Promises, Promises created a lot of buzz when it was announced for Broadway, in part because it starred stage darling Kristin Chenoweth, in part because the 1960s smash — Burt Bacharach and Hal David's only musical — hadn't been done since its initial productions. Why? Well, according to one critic, writing after the April 25 opening at the Broadway theatre, "It's no good." That was his opinion, of course. Others were kinder, but not by much. The consensus was that, while the musical adaptation of the film "The Apartment" had aged, it was mainly hamstrung by a tame, lukewarm production from director-choreographer Rob Ashford and the miscasting of firecracker Chenoweth as a luckless wet blanket. Sean Hayes, meanwhile, got a lot of surprised "Hey, he's really quite good" responses. But the highlight, all agreed, was the top 15 minutes of the second act, in which Katie Finneran, and a soused floozy, lit the stage afire with comic genius.

Fences opened April 26. Star Denzel Washington is the reason this August Wilson drama is being revived, and, all critics agree, that made for a very good reason. Washington was thought to have met the challenge of the part created by James Earl Jones and made it his own. Co-star Viola Davis didn't do too shabby either. But there was a lack of inspiration in the headline writers. Overlapping metaphors greeted the opening of Fences, all drawing on the same baseball motif. "Denzel Washington Steals Home," crowed Bloomberg News. "Dramatic Home Run" cried the Post, to with Newsday answered "Washington's Star Power Hits Fences Out of the Park." At half a dozen other publications, Washington was hitting homers and clearing fences. Perhaps publications today — like the rumored shared kitchen of the Indian restaurants on E. 6th Street — all get their headlines from the same place.

Enron, which opened April 27 at the Broadhurst, was widely expected to the be the dramatic play event of the spring, as lavishly praised London imports are often expected to be. It wasn't to be. Lucy Prebble's drama about the title corporation's historic financial fraud and collapse, got lost in translation. Critics liked the flashiness of director Rupert Goold production, which some likened the the razzle-dazzle of a musical. But more thought that flash masked a lack of depth in the material, a thematic obviousness and a smug anti-American attitude. There were a few positive notices (a rave in TimeOutNY), but the difference between the U.K. and U.S. response to the play was like solvency and bankrupcy.

Donald Margulies enjoyed yet another Broadway production at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre (Manhattan Theatre Club's home) on April 28, when his two-hander Collected Stories opened with Linda Lavin and Sarah Paulson. How does a contemporary play get produced in New York three times in 15 years, as Stories has been? Most agreed: two actors, one set, and two meaty parts for actresses who are always looking for them. Most reviews said the play, about the relationship between a budding writer and her mentor, remains what it had always been: well crafted, mildly involving, not world-shattering. But Lavin: tops. Sherie Rene Scott's semi-autobiographical show Everyday Rapture provided the unexpected close to the 2009-10 Broadway season. Unexpected because, if it hadn't been for Megan Mullally's sudden exit from Roundabout Theatre Company's planned revival of Terrence McNally's Lips Together, Teeth Apart, Scott's show, a critical success Off-Broadway in 2009, wouldn't be on Broadway at all. (I hope Scott has sent Mullally flowers by now.) Roundabout was no doubt aware that the show was previously heralded by Ben Brantley at the New York Times; and Brantley paid his respects again when Rapture opened on April 29 at the American Airlines Theatre, saying nothing less than "Everyday Rapture is a smashing little show that reminds us of why so many of us keep going back to Broadway, even though it's broken our heart so many times." My. Other critics found the show mainly charming and undeniably slight, but overall easy to take.

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