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Play Well

Date: Jan 23, 2009


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These are serious times we live in, and as if to reflect that, Broadway is bringing some serious talent to the boards this winter to star in more plays at once than we’ve seen on the Rialto for many a season. (A bonus: Only a few are from Great Britain!)

Kicking off this auspicious play season was The American Plan, Richard Greenberg’s comedy/drama about a fraught mother and daughter trying to enjoy their time at a Catskills resort in 1960, which features powerhouse performances by Mercedes Ruehl and Lily Rabe. And who could forget one of the most anticipated shows of the season, Hedda Gabler? With a cast that includes Mary-Louise Parker, Michael Cerveris, Paul Sparks and Peter Stormare, and featuring direction by Ian Rickson (who last illuminated Broadway’s brilliant Seagull), this new produciont of Ibsen’s unsettling classic features a new adaptation by playwright Christopher Shinn (Dying City).

On the lighter side, early February brings us Will Ferrell’s one-man satirical salute to our most recent former president, You’re Welcome, America. Though the next non-musical doesn’t hit the Great White Way till March, it’s positively raining plays that month. In 33 Variations, the latest from by Moises Kaufman (The Laramie Project, Gross Indecency), Jane Fonda plays a woman on the track of a historical mystery involving Beethoven (played by Zach Grenier), alongside a cast that includes Colin Hanks and Samantha Mathis. Impressionism features the long-overdue return to Broadway of two very tall, and very brilliant actors: Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons, who star in this drama about a photojournalist and gallery owner meeting and repairing their broken lives; Marsha Mason and Andre De Shields co-star.

Next in March is a starry revival of Noel Coward’s frothy supernatural comedy, Blithe Spirit, featuring Angela Lansbury, Rupert Everett and Christine Ebersole, to be directed by Michael Blakemore (Deuce). Oscar winners Geoffrey Rush and Susan Sarandon, joined by Lauren Ambrose and Andrea Martin, will next headline Ionesco’s haunting absurdist classic Exit the King. And rounding out March is a well-deserved transfer of the Off-Broadway hit Irena’s Vow, starring Tovah Feldshuh, who plays a real-life Polish rescuer of a dozen Jews from certain death during WWII.

And in April come a pair of plays by two major American writers who couldn’t be more different. The provocative and prolific Neil LaBute (Fat Pig, The Shape of Things) makes his long-overdue Broadway debut with reasons to be pretty, an examination of beauty and perception that stars Piper Perabo, Marin Ireland, Thomas Sadoski and Steven Pasquale. And in a much-anticipated revival of perhaps the greatest play by the late, great August Wilson, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone wends it way to Broadway in a production directed by Bartlett Sher (South Pacific, Awake and Sing!).

Next up is the season's only major U.K. import, the Donmar Warehouse production of Mary Stuart, Friedrich Schiller's classic tale of royal intrigue, with a starry cast that includes Janet McTeer (her first role on Broadway since she took home a Tony for A Doll's House) and Harriet Walter. Then comes the return of a Broadway darling, Matthew Broderick, who will star in Christopher Hampton's Moliere-esque farce The Philanthropist.

Finally, at April’s end comes a revival of Beckett’s existentialist classic Waiting for Godot, starring Nathan Lane, Bill Irwin, John Goodman and David Straithairn. The Roundabout production will be helmed by Tony winner Anthony Page, who also directed the Irwin-topped Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? a few years back.

So many meaty plays and world-class actors on Broadway? Now that’s a season to sing about.