PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 18-24: Bradley Cooper Coming Back to Broadway and Outside Mullingar Opens

By Robert Simonson
January 24, 2014

Playwright John Patrick Shanley has had some critical successes and some outright misses in the ten years since Doubt made him a bankable writer. But he hasn't achieved a popular success to match that Pulitzer Prize-winning play.



That run of middling luck seems to have come to an end with Outside Mullingar, the new Shanley play that officially opened its limited Broadway engagement Jan. 23.

The subject matter couldn't be more different from that of Doubt — or any other Shanley play for that matter, unless you include the romantic whiskey of his best known film, "Moonstuck." Set in rural Ireland, the story concerns Anthony and Rosemary, two introverted misfits and neighbors approaching 40.

Critics didn't pussyfoot around in their appraisal. The Times called the play "Mr. Shanley's finest work since Doubt." The Paper of Record admitted it "is a lighter, slighter play, a softhearted comedy freckled with dark reflections on the unsatisfactory nature of life and the thorns of love. But Mr. Shanley's lyrical writing, and the flawless production, directed by Doug Hughes for Manhattan Theater Club, give such consistent pleasure that even though we know the equations that define romcoms will add up to the familiar sums, we are happy to watch as they do."

The Hollywood Reporter called it a "charmer," noting that, "Unapologetic sentimentality without too much treacle isn't easy to do, but the playwright pulls it off with confidence." Newsday commented, "Debra Messing and Brian F. O'Byrne are so, what's a more grown-up word for adorable? — charming? irresistible? combustible? — together that we wish this romantic comedy would go on for hours."

Variety summed up the opinions of several reviewers in writing, "It may not be as dramatic as Doubt or as funny as 'Moonstruck,' but John Patrick Shanley has not written a more beautiful or loving play than Outside Mullingar." 

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The acclaimed Public Theater production of the David Byrne-Fatboy Slim musical Here Lies Love, an immersive theatrical experience that captures the political rise and fall of Filipino leaders Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos, will return Off-Broadway in March.

Here Lies Love was extended four times during its initial run last season at the Public's LuEsther Theater, and the Public had been working to find a suitable venue for the acclaimed musical that ended its run July 28, 2013. So it's bringing the show back to its original theatre. However, the production will be a rental at the Public, which will not put any of its own money into the commercial return.

Bradley Cooper in The Elephant Man
Photo by T. Charles Erickson

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Broadway is getting another revival of The Elephant Man.

Bowing this coming fall, it will star the red-hot film actor Bradley Cooper ("American Hustle," "Silver Lining Playbook"), Patricia Clarkson, a seasoned theatre actress who has long been absent from the New York stage (her last New York theatre role was in 1998) and Alessandro Nivola as John Merrick.

The show will be staged at a Shubert theatre to-be-announced, producer James L. Nederlander confirmed Jan. 23. The play will by directed by Scott Ellis, who also directed a 2012 Williamstown Theatre Festival production of the Bernard Pomerance drama. Interestingly, Cooper appeared as John Merrick in that production. I guess he became tired of all that body contorting.

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Garth Drabinsky is on the loose again.

The Broadway producer of such Tony-winning works as Ragtime and Kiss of the Spider Woman, who was later tried and convicted of fraud and forgery, was granted full parole this week, after spending roughly two and one half years incarcerated.

Drabinsky will spend the final two years of his parole at home with family. The former theatrical impresario still may not own or operate any business, may not become self-employed or manage financial aspects of any organization.

Drabinsky, whose Broadway Livent-linked shows in the 1990s and 2000s included Parade, Barrymore, Fosse, Seussical and more, was convicted on two counts of fraud and one count of forgery in 2009. The fraud and forgery convictions against Drabinsky and Myron Gottlieb (sentenced to seven and six years, respectively) were upheld by the Ontario Court of Appeal in fall 2011. At that time, the court reduced their prison sentences by two years. They were convicted of falsifying accounting statements over the decade-long (1989-98) life of Livent, as they raised $500 million in Canada and the U.S. to support their North American theatre-owning and producing empire.

Drabinsky and Gottlieb are still wanted men in the U.S. In 1999 they were charged with fraud by the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York.