It’s a phrase, it’s a song, it’s a cliché… and now and again it actually reads factual when it refers to New York theatre: “Only the good die young.” In stage parlance, it translates to: “only the good close young.” Read on for our guide to fond farewells to Broadway and Off-Broadway this summer.
The Little Foxes, with Cynthia Nixon and Laura Linney alternating the lead roles Photo: Joan Marcus
Let’s start with July 2nd’s Broadway good-byes. Two of the season’s best are checking out: a stellar revival of the comedy Present Laughter starring Kevin Kline—who picked up his third Tony, this time for Best Actor in a Play. In addition, Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes (featuring another 2017 Tony winner, Cynthia Nixon) will be ending its run. This splendid re-up is so good one had to see it twice as Nixon and Laura Linney alternate leading and featured roles.
Star power and other factors determined all three shows would be limited runs…extensions notwithstanding. Still, when the final curtains fall, Broadway will have lost some of its current magic…until the next round of magic comes along.
Over the next few days and weeks Off-Broadway will also be leaching several worthy productions, including a recommended trio to check out before the doors slam shut.
Closing July 1st: Theater Breaking Through Barriers’ hilarious revival of the late Charles Ludlam’s film noir-ish, pet store-esque farce, The Artificial Jungle. Details needn’t be bandied here, only broad strokes praising the show’s cast: Alyssa H. Chase, David Harrell, Anita Hollander, Anthony Michael Lopez, and Rob Minutoli, a wildly adventurous bunch who gamely cavort their way through murder most “fowl” (Chase and Lopez); a spunky victim whose death is both hard to achieve and memorably unnerving (Harrell); an easily-duped cop with a dominos addiction (Minutoli); and the victim’s mom (Hollander), whose facial high jinks alone are worth the price of admission. The puppet piranhas by Vandy Woods are no slouches either.
Directing this delectable bit of lunacy is Everett Quinton, Ludlam’s partner in the unrelenting shenanigans their Ridiculous Theatre Company built into legend back in the day and where The Artificial Jungle debuted. Theatrerow.org
Jim Brochu in Zero Hour.
Closing July 9th: Zero Hour, a show that returned to Off-Broadway with a window that was small to begin with—24 performances in all. Yet Jim Brochu, who wrote and stars in this one-man fictionalized—but not all that improbable—slice of latter-day Zero Mostel, not only looks and sounds like the comedic actor whose off-stage/off-camera life was marked by love, loyalty, and tragedy, but manages to channel the heart and humor of the Tony-winning actor whose career was notable for originating such roles as Tevye in Fiddler On the Roof, Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Max Bialystock in the 1968 Mel Brooks film The Producers.
These roles are pretty much footnotes in Zero Hour that tracks Mostel’s Orthodox Jewish parents through his Lower East Side youth, through his career roots as a stand-up comic, his beloved gentile wife, Kate, and a madcap swath of jobs, triumphs, and losses, in particular his devastating blacklisted years.
"Zero had a great influence on my life and I was fortunate to get to know him when I was first starting out,” said Brochu. “His life was filled with great laughter, great drama and great life lessons for all of us. Few people in show business had more obstacles to overcome than Zero Mostel.”
The current New York run was directed by three-time Oscar nominee Piper Laurie.
I would add that young theatregoers and students of the craft should make it a point to see Brochu’s performance…not just for his insight and dead-ringer interpretation, but for a valuable glimpse of a theatre…and the history behind his story. Thepeccadillo.com
Closing July 16th: OSLO, 2017’s Tony winner for Best Play. Originally set to close on the 2nd of July, the mesmerizing behind-the-scenes story surrounding the 1993 Oslo Accords, Oslo posted a welcome extension the day after the Tony Awards ceremony. The drama, laced with political and interpersonal humor, picked up its Tony in one of the year’s most competitive categories. In addition to Best Play, Michael Aronov won a Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Play.
Overall, Oslo earned its Tony on myriad levels: an incredible script by J.T. Rogers; brilliant direction by Bartlett Sher; and an ensemble cast to die for. Besides Aronov, the cast featured, Anthony Azizi, Adam Dannheisser, Jennifer Ehle, Daniel Jenkins, Dariush Kashani, Jeb Kreager, Jefferson Mays, Christopher McHale, Daniel Oreskes, Angela Pierce, Henny Russell, T. Ryder Smith, and Jeff Still.
With time running down, I strongly urge anyone who hasn’t seen this historic thriller to reserve tickets now. OsloBroadway.com
Closing July 30th: Horton Foote’s The Traveling Lady. Originally scheduled to exit the Cherry Lane Theatre on July 16th, this singularly endearing revival—peppered with quirky, broken, loving, lost, and rescued characters—is extending through the end of the month. Which is not to say there won’t be an important change taking effect early in July. On the 2nd Tony-winner Karen Ziemba, who plays Sitter Mavis, will be leaving to devote her time to Prince of Broadway, a musical celebration of director Harold Prince, that’s slated to begin previews on August 3rd.
Karen Ziemba and Angelina Fiordellisi in The Traveling Lady. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
However, if your schedule prevents you from seeing Ziemba in her last few days in “a small Texas town, 1950,” you’ll definitely want to take note of her replacement: Annette O’Toole, who’s picking up the Sitter torch on July 5th.
O’Toole, whose husband Michael McKean (aka Lenny, aka Chuck McGill) will be wrapping up his latest Broadway run The Little Foxes on July 2nd, joins a cast of theatre veterans that includes: Larry Bull, Lynn Cohen, Angelina Fiordellisi, Jean Lichty, George Morfogen, Ron Piretti, PJ Sosko, and Jill Tanner.
As for the new cast member, O’Toole arrives with a long list of New York stage credits including Man from Nebraska; Southern Comfort (Lucille Lortel Award, Drama Desk and Drama League nominations); Hamlet in Bed; Third; and The Seagull. She is also readily identifiable from her TV credits, such as Smallville and The Kennedys of Massachusetts, for which she received both Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for her portrayal of Rose Kennedy. Cherrylanetheatre.org