PLAYBILL THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 23-29: Richard Griffiths, Gigi, The Flick Flack and More

By Robert Simonson
29 Mar 2013

Louisa Krause in The Flick.
Photo by Joan Marcus

Some theatregoers protest with signs. Other protest with their feet.

Annie Baker's play The Flick earned critical acclaim when it opened earlier this month. But not everyone in the audience has loved it. Many subscribers have deserted the production at intermission. The play, which takes place in a decrepit movie theatre, runs over three hours, contains many silences, and features numerous scenes of the cinema's employees methodically sweeping and mopping the auditorium.

This week, Playwrights Horizons artistic director Tim Sanford took the unusual step of emailing subscribers about their criticisms of the show.

"I have to admit I was not totally prepared for it to be such a polarizing show," wrote Sanford in the letter, which has been published in news reports. "I love Annie's work and thought this was just the play to introduce her to a wider audience. Here are three characters rarely portrayed on the stage these days and Annie imbues them with such humanity and integrity….

"I hoped that Annie's palpable...compassion [for] her characters and the play's fairly straightforward plot about a developing ethical workplace quandary along with would win you all over. Of course I had some trepidation about its length. Theatregoers rarely encounter three-hour plays these days even though most classic scripts from earlier ages routinely clock in well above that length. When performances began and some of you walked out at intermission, emphatically expressing your displeasure to our House Manager, we had lengthy discussions about what to do….

"But after our initial concern about walkouts, we began to pay attention to the other voices, the voices that urged Annie and Sam not to cut a second, the voices imbued with rapture for a theatre experience unlike any they had experienced and for a production that stayed with them for days even weeks afterwards. And it became clear to me that every moment of the play and production was steeped in purpose. Annie had a vision and this production beautifully executes that vision. And at the end of the day, we are a writer's theatre and my first responsibility is to that writer. My goal is not to dissuade any of you who disliked the play. I would rather evince passionate dislike than a dispassionate shrug."


Has the New York International Fringe Festival begun early this year?

I ask only because the new Off-Broadway premiere Cuff Me: The Fifty Shades of Grey Musical Parody, which began March 27 at the Actors Temple Theater, sure sounds like a Fringe title to me.

Cuff Me is written by Bradford McMurran, Jeremiah Albers and Sean Michael Devereux of the improv group The Pushers. It was conceived by Tim Flaherty, who is also a contributing author, and Sonya Carter, who directs. Obviously, the work is based on the S & M-themed national best seller whose popularity has become the subject of national wonder and puzzlement over the last year or so.

Will the people who love the book care to see their guilty pleasure sent up? Will the people who deplore it bother seeing a stage version of it? This is the kind of show that could either disappear in an instant or run forever. Time will tell.


Tom Stoppard
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Playwright Tom Stoppard toyed around with radio drama early on in his career. Now he plans to return to it. Stoppard has penned a new radio play based on the landmark Pink Floyd album "The Dark Side of the Moon," according to the BBC.

Airing Aug. 26 on BBC Radio 2, the audio drama, which incorporates music from the album, will feature actors Iwan Rheon and Amaka Okafor in the two leading roles, as well as Bill Nighy, Rufus Sewell and Adrian Scarborough.

The project is not exactly a new idea. The BBC reports that Stoppard had initially been approached to author a play based on the album in the early 1970s. Guess they kept after the writer until he was free.


Finally, Richard Griffiths, the British character actor whose career bloomed late in life with numerous successes on the London and Broadway stage, died March 28 of complications following heart surgery at University Hospital in Coventry, central England. He was 65.

Griffiths, who only became a major stage star in the last decade of his life, possessed a frame was as big as his gifts as an actor. He was a striking presence on stage, his naturally fulsome, playful personality radiating through his physicality to dominate any scene he was in. He won every award in the book for his unforgettable performance as a charismatic and controversial teacher in Alan Bennett's The History Boys. His approach to acting assignments was often counter-intuitive, yet insightful. The key to playing boisterous Falstaff, he said, was, "Don't do jokes. Falstaff is actually a very well educated, scaly opportunist who's out for number one. That's what you must play first. He's an absolute bastard." In person, the actor was very much like the character he played — witty, charmingly subversive, digressive in conversation and fully aware of (if slightly annoyed by) the rich panoply of life.