fbpx

If you’re heading to New York to catch a bit of big-marquee theater during the next few weeks, you’re in luck — the sparkling remnants of an impressive Broadway winter-spring season offer a lot to choose from. However, be prepared to find skyscraper-high hotel prices as Midtown room rates continue to soar. Best bets include the reliably funky Edison Hotel (www.edisonhotelnyc.com) and the fanny-pack-turista Milford Plaza (www.milfordplaza.com). Respectively, their rooms will set you back, after taxes, $225 and $256 a night. (These’ll jump another $35 in July.) For the frugal theatergoer, I’d suggest the Union Square Inn (www.unionsquareinn.com), which consistently clocks in at less than $200 per night with taxes, even in July. Located in a relatively nontouristy part of town (14th Street and Third Avenue), the no-frills USI is, even in the thick of rush hour, 20 cab minutes from Broadway, and a subway line sits about 50 feet from the lobby door. Note: Times Square renovations have temporarily pushed the TKTS discount-ticket booths onto the 46th Street side of the Marriott Marquis Hotel. The ticket phone number for the shows reviewed below is (800) 432-7250.

Scott Landis

(Click to enlarge)

Mamet's turkey nation in “November”

Joan Marcus

(Click to enlarge)

Beneath Letts' “August” moon

August: Osage County Forget the compressionistic, low-rent black comedy of Bug or Killer Joe — this 2008 Pulitzer and Tony winner, which originated at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre, is playwright Tracy Letts’ own Long Day’s Journey Into Night set on the sweltering Oklahoma prairie and delivered over three verbose acts. The story opens with an old failed poet (Michael McGuire) interviewing a prospective housekeeper (Kimberly Guerrero) to help the man’s drug-addled wife, Violet (Deanna Dunagan). Soon he disappears, and his absence is quickly filled by three daughters and their families, who arrive to await word of his fate — and to fight among themselves. Although the final act could stand some cutting, the play marks an ambitious exploration of the American family and the wages of wrecked artistic ambition. Anna D. Shapiro won a Tony for directing a powerhouse ensemble led by fellow Tony winner Dunagan, whose Violet is a spiteful twister of a woman. Todd Rosenthal’s scenic design is dominated by a leviathan three-level house that seems to stretch up to the sky, although viewers in the first three or four rows will wish they were sitting further back during the attic scenes. Music Box, 239 W. 45th St.


Gypsy This Patti LuPone vehicle showcases the diva in all her belter glory (and brought her a second Tony — only Bette Midler could bring to Broadway the bigger-than-life brassiness and pipes required for the role of Mama Rose, the American stage mother incarnate, but only LuPone can submerge her performer in the story’s demonic character. Arthur Laurents revives his original show and book, with music by Jule Styne, lyrics from Stephen Sondheim and Jerome Robbins’ choreography. Yet this outing is more than a star turn or a museum piece; it’s an encore/eulogy for the kind of Broadway musical that’s been replaced by live stagings of Disney cartoons and B movies. The happy surprise about this production is that the supporting cast doesn’t roll over to make way for LuPone — Laura Benanti in particular turns in a low-key but memorable performance as daughter Louise, who transforms herself from Rose’s long-suffering vaudeville protégé into a famous stripper. Howell Binkley’s lighting design is a star in its own right, especially in the moment when Rose’s children grow up right before our eyes as the young actors portraying them surrender the stage to their older counterparts in the blink of a strobe. This one magical moment tells us how a Broadway classic as old as the caricatures on the walls of Sardi’s can still enchant. St. James Theatre, 246 W. 44th St.


November During the fateful election year of 2000, Gore Vidal’s The Best Man received a Broadway revival, 40 years after its premiere. Vidal’s fairy tale about principled men making idealistic sacrifices at a presidential political convention was crudely upstaged by the realities of the Florida recount and subsequent coup du jure that brought the Worst Man to power. With David Mamet’s November we have a reversal: A pessimistic farce drenched with profane cynicism, the play (which opened in January) does not anticipate the resurrection of political idealism embodied by Barack Obama. Nathan Lane plays President Charles Smith, a universally despised incumbent who cannot get his own party to buy him airtime during his campaign for reelection. A request by a turkey-marketing trade group for Smith to pardon a pair of the birds in advance of Thanksgiving opens some opportunities for bribery. President Smith develops an unexpected social conscience, however, and promises to marry his lesbian speechwriter, played by Laurie Metcalf. Joe Mantello’s production has been wildly successful, and not surprisingly so: Mamet has somehow requited his love for the sound of his own voice, so that the comedy’s gags aren’t simply piled on for their own sake, as they were in Mamet’s courtroom romp, Romance. With its funny one-liners, November runs like a well-timed screwball comedy of yore, bringing to mind The Front Page.Lane is in top form as the gutter-mouthed pol who experiences a moral epiphany; in some ways, Lane has morphed here into a Jackie Gleason for the 21st century, portraying a clueless lout who’s done in by his own scam. The true delight of this show, however, is Dylan Baker as Smith’s chalk-striped consigliere; Baker’s unbuckling WASP rectitude in the face of Smith’s chicanery provides Lane with the perfect foil. Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 243 W. 47th St.

Top Girls The Manhattan Theatre Club has been on a roll this year, operating acclaimed productions on three stages. This revival of British playwright Caryl Churchill’s acerbic 1982 satire captures that work’s second-wave feminism and the author’s leftist critique of cutthroat careerism masquerading as gender emancipation. Elizabeth Marvel portrays Marlene, a woman who’s rising up the ladder of a London temp agency called Top Girls. The first part of this three-act play is a fantasy during which Marlene convenes a girls’-night dinner with various historical figures, including Pope Joan (Martha Plimpton) and celebrated Scottish traveler Isabella Bird (Marisa Tomei). The rest of the play is given to Marlene’s office milieu and the troubled family life she left behind in the English countryside — specifically, her resentful sister, Joyce (Tomei), and Joyce’s mysterious and awkward teenage daughter, Angie (Plimpton). Longtime Churchill director James MacDonald has assembled a tight ensemble — Tomei is especially effective as Joyce — which also includes Mary Beth Hurt. MacDonald deftly orchestrates the play’s political nuances so that Churchill’s prescient warning about the Thatcher ice age — and beyond — creeps up on cat’s feet. Manhattan Theatre Club at the Biltmore Theatre, 261 W. 47th St. (Note: Closes June 29.)

LA Weekly