Friday, July 26, 2019

2019-20 Broadway and Off-Broadway Updates

Since the last update, new on and Off-Broadway productions for 2019-20 have been announced, plus several Off-Broadway theater companies have revealed their seasons. In the past including these theaters' rosters has been a challenge since they seldom have booked specific opening dates, only the beginning of previews. In order to give as complete a calendar of the New York theater season as possible, starting preview dates are listed when no opening date has been announced

Mark Murphey, Jack Willis as LBJ and Peter Frechette
in The Great Society at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Credit: Jenny Graham
The biggest recent Broadway show to be added to the list is The Great Society, Robert Schenkkan's sequel to All the Way, his Tony-winning history of Lyndon Johnson's early presidency. Like All the Way, Society premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and later played the Seattle Repertory Theater. This second play focuses on LBJ's efforts to pass Civil Rights legislation through a reluctant Congress and his simultaneous tribulations of the Vietnam War. Bryan Cranston won a Tony for an impressive performance in the lead role in All the Way. Brian Cox will now take over the role with Richard Thomas (The Waltons, The Little Foxes) as Vice-President Humbert Humphrey, Grantham Coleman (Much Ado About Nothing) as Martin Luther King, Tony winner Frank Wood (Side Man) as Senator Everett Dirksen, Marc Kudisch (9 to 5, Finding Neverland) as Chicago mayor Richard Daley, Bryce Pinkham (A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, Holiday Inn) as Attorney General Robert Kennedy, and Gordon Clapp (NYPD Blue) as FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. Previews begin Sept. 6 at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater. The opening date has not yet been announced.

Friday, July 19, 2019

MacTrump: A Shakespearean Farce: Act III, Scene II

Let us continue with my Shakespearean parody of the Trump circus: (previous installments Act One, Act Two, Act Three Scene One)

The curtain rises on a gloomy cave with three forbidding figures surrounding a boiling cauldron. At first they appear to be the three reporters from Act One who were in reality the three witches. Then lightning strikes and they slowly morph into Vladimir Putin, Kim Jung Un, and the Saudi Crown Prince.

All Three: Double, double, toil and trouble
Media burn and racism bubble
Unleash the hate with a viral stream
Ripping bullets and victims' scream

Witch 1 (Putin): Energize the brew with a cyber hack
Leave no trace of Wikileaks' track
Flavor with poisonous blaze
And ripped-out livers of despised gays

Witch 2 (Kim Jung Un): Add vapor trail from nuclear missile
Blood pricked from sharpened thistle
Saliva from Trump's ass-kissing smacks
Crumbs from his Cheetos, French Fries, and Big Macs

Witch 3 (Saudi Crown Prince): Throw in limbs from chopped up writer
Oil contract and Middle-East igniter
Veil worn by hypocritical First Daughter
Souls of victims of our ravenous slaughter

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Tenth Annual David Desk Awards

Paul Alexander Nolan and Teyonah Parris in Slave Play.
Credit: Joan Marcus
We're well into the summer and I've finally gotten around to posting the winners of the 10th annual David Desk Awards for excellence in Broadway and Off-Broadway theater for the 2018-19 season. Slave Play, one of my choices for Best Play, had a run at New York Theater Workshop and is transferring to a limited 17-week Broadway run at the Golden Theater with previews beginning Sept. 10, and opening Oct. 6. At 30, playwright Jeremy O. Harris will be the youngest black male dramatist to make his Broadway debut. How will Broadway audiences take this dangerous, risky work which boldly faces racial tensions and anger in unconventional ways. It's not a safe, comfortable melodrama like last season's American Son. It's not British and loaded with snob appeal like The Ferryman which was a magnificent show, but since it dealt with Irish people and their problems, rich white Yankee liberals did not have to face their own prejudices and national dilemmas.

But to the matter at hand, here are my picks for the tops of the last season: 

Fairview (Jackie Sibblies Drury)
The Ferryman (Jez Butterworth)
The Lehman Trilogy (Stefano Massini, translated by Ben Power)
Mary Page Marlowe (Tracey Letts)
Slave Play (Jeremy O. Harris)
What the Constitution Means to Me (Heidi Schreck)

The Prom
Twelfth Night

Thursday, July 4, 2019

2019-20 Broadway Season Forecast

July is here and that means the 2018-19 Broadway season is officially done with and the next one is underway. Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune, the revival of Terrence McNally's 1988 two-hander, was the first official production of the season, opening in May. The summer is pretty slow this year with only two Broadway openings confirmed--Moulin Rouge, the stage version of Baz Luhrmann's gaudy and superficial 2001 film musical and Sea Wall/A Life, a transfer of a pair of solo pieces starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge which played the Public Theater earlier this year. Tea at Five, the one-woman play starring Faye Dunaway as Katharine Hepburn, was supposed to open sometime during the summer, as was an all-female staging of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross. But neither ever secured a theater and their future is uncertain. Tea at Five is now playing Boston's Huntington Theater through July 14.

Here's a rundown of announced Broadway openings for 2019-20:

Charlie Cox, Zawe Ashton, and Tom Hiddleston in Betrayal.
Credit: Marc Brenner
Betrayal: Harold Pinter's reverse-chronicle triangle drama returns to Broadway for its third revival with Tom Hiddleston, Zawe Ashton and Charlie Cox making their Broadway debuts after a smashing success in London's West End. (Original: 1980 with Raul Julia, Blythe Danner, and Roy Scheider, Reprised in 2001 with Liev Schreiber, Juliette Binoche and John Slattery, and in 2013 with Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, and Rafe Spall). (Jacobs/Sept. 15)

Derren Brown: Secret--The magician and mentalist brings his Drama Desk winning show to Broadway after a run at the Atlantic Theater Company in 2017.

The Height of the Storm--Manhattan Theater Club opens its Broadway season with this drama by French playwright Florian Zeller starring Eileen Atkins and Jonathan Pryce repeating their London performances as a couple who, not unlike the protagonists of Zeller's plays The Father and The Mother, face uncertainty and despair after decades of marriage.