PLAYBILL THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Feb. 2-8: Gloria Estefan, Pippin, The Glass Menagerie
By Robert Simonson
Daniel Craig — a rainmaker in A Steady Rain a couple seasons back — will head back to Broadway, accompanied by Rachel Weisz, in a new Broadway revival of Harold Pinter's time-bending drama Betrayal, according to a report out of London. Mike Nichols, who just can't quit Broadway, will direct.
Weisz will portray Emma, who is having an affair with her husband's best friend. Craig would portray Robert, her husband. The third member of the cast has not been named.
Pinter's 1978 drama famously travels in reverse dramatic order as it explores a hidden love affair. Regarded as Pinter's most commercially accessible play, it has also attracted top talent. It premiered on Broadway in 1979 with Blythe Danner, Raul Julia and Roy Schneider. A 2000 revival featured Juliette Binoche, Liev Schreiber and John Slattery.
The producers bringing in the new Broadway revival — first Broadway revival — of the whimsically soul-searching musical Pippin, have decided to keep its American Repertory Theater production cast intact.
Spider-Man cast member Matthew James Thomas takes on the title role in a troupe (when you're dealing with Pippin, it seems natural to call the cast a "troupe") that also features Patina Miller as the Leading Player, Terrence Mann as King Charles, Charlotte d'Amboise as Fastrada, Erik Altemus as Lewis, Andrew Cekala as Theo and Rachel Bay Jones as Catherine. The closest the show has to a conventional star is Tony winner Andrea Martin, in the usually show-stopping role of wise grandma Berthe.
Diane Paulus, the pilot behind recent revivals of Hair and Porgy and Bess, will try to strike gold again with this latest musical archaeology project. The production incorporates circus choreography and acrobatics by Gypsy Snider of the Montreal-based circus company Les 7 doigts de la main (7 Fingers). It will officially open on Broadway April 25.
The Nederlander Organization and Estefan Enterprises announced this week that they will develop and produce a new Broadway musical. If you recognize that second name as one that was attached to many a hit single during the 1980s, then you can decipher what the musical backbone of this show will be: the songbook of "Queen of Latin Pop" Gloria Estefan and her husband, musician-producer Emilio Estefan.
The musical will feature not only the Estefans' music, but also their "life story." "Our cultural roots, our life-defining challenges and the rewards that come with believing in yourself and striving for that which you believe in wholeheartedly, will be the foundation for this theatrical production," said the Estefans. One guesses the tale will address the couple's origins in Cuba, and the 1990 bus accident that almost cost Gloria her life.
When great American stage actresses are young, they want to play Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. When they get a bit older, they itch to try on Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire. And when they reach a certain more advanced age, it's time for Amanda in The Glass Menagerie.
Cherry Jones, one of the American stage's most formidable and consistent talents, is currently taking on the latter assignment. Once director John Tiffany guides her in a new production of the Tennessee Williams classic at the American Repertory Theater. The cast also features Zachary Quinto as narrator son Tom, Celia Keenan-Bolger as sister Laura and Brian J. Smith as the Gentleman Caller.
William Kunstler isn't a name that conjures up much recognition these days. But in 1960s and 1970s, he was one of the biggest legal stars in counter-cultural circles. He made his name defending the "Chicago 7" in 1969 and in the years that followed there wasn't a lost cause or fringe character he wouldn't rush to represent, from members of the Black Panther Party to the Attica Prison rioters. He died in 1995.
Kunstler's achievements will be remembered in a new play by Jeffrey Sweet, the Chicago playwright whose book "The Dramatist's Toolkit" is a favorite of student playwrights. Called Kunstler, the play will star Jeff McCarthy as the attorney, and be directed by actress Annette O'Toole. It will play the Hudson Stage Company in Westchester County in April.
Guthrie Theater announced the casting for actor Mark Rylance and writer Louis Jenkins' new play Nice Fish, which is also to star and be co-directed by Rylance in Minneapolis. The world-premiere run begins April 6.
Jenkins, you will recall, is the Midwestern poet whose work the quirky Rylance — to the confusion of many, and amusement of a select few — has twice quoted during his Tony Award acceptance speeches. Rylance has now collaborated with the poet on the piece that is set on the last day of ice fishing season in the Upper Midwest.
The Minneapolis production's cast also features Jim Lichtscheidl, Emily Swallow, Chris Carlson as Wayne, Bob Davis and Tyson Forbes.
The biggest theatrical story of the week — maybe the biggest story, period, based on the reaction and readership it received — came out of England. It wasn't about a new production or a famous actor, but about a historical figure who is best known to the public as a stage character.
After 500 years of searching, archaeologists in England located and positively identified the skeletal remains of Richard III, the King of England famously dramatized by Shakespeare as a ruthless and charming villain.
Richard died in the 1485 Battle of Bosworth Field, bringing his brief and bloody reign as king to an end. Richard's death brought to an end the Plantagenet line of monarchs. He was also the last English king to die in battle.
His body was found under a parking garage in Greyfriars, in Leicestershire, in August 2012. The garage was built over the site of a medieval friary; the monarch had been buried without a coffin. The remains were identified based on DNA samples taken from the skeleton, which matched that of a Michael Ibsen, who is a direct descendant of Richard III's sister, Anne of York. Another anonymous relative with blood ties to Anne of York was also involved.
The skeletal remains showed signs of scoliosis, which prompted Shakespeare's famous description of the ruler as a "bunch-backed toad." The bones also indicated battle wounds, with part of the skull sheared away as the result of eight head wounds. A piece of metal was also found in the spine.
Richard III will be reburied in a place more suitable to an English king (even if he was a terrible king): Leicester Cathedral. Some historians clamored for Richard to get a more royal internment, in Westminster Abbey. But, argued Tudor historian Dr. David Starkey, "Unless Westminster Abbey opens a villains' corner where we can put him, I think Leicester is quite appropriate. Frankly, he doesn’t make the grade."
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