The Playgoer: Drama on Broadway

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Drama on Broadway

Remember all the buzz around Lisa D'Aamour's Detroit after its Steppenwolf premiere last year? It was a Pulitzer finalist, was published in American Theatre and was being prepped for a high profile Broadway transfer this season. Expectations were high that this would be the great August: Osage County follow-up.

Well, someone's had second thoughts:

Though at one point talked up for Broadway, Lisa D’Amour’s “Detroit,” a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in drama, will open the 2012-13 season at Playwrights Horizons, officials at the Off Broadway theater said on Monday. After positive reviews for Austin Pendleton’s production at Steppenwolf Theater last fall, “Detroit” was announced for Broadway. Instead, Playwrights will put on a new production of the five-character comedy, which zooms in on the adjacent backyards of two recovering addicts and their anxious middle-class neighbors. Anne Kauffman...will direct.
Now before anyone laments (yet again) the paucity of serious drama on Broadway, let me congratulate whoever is behind this decision with coming to their senses!

Perhaps someone looked at last week's box office figures and saw that David Henry Hwang's favorably reviewed Chinglish is playing to an only 39% house. And that Private Lives with Kim Cattrall--a "name" title with a "name" actress--is closing at the end of this month, two months earlier than previously announced. (This despite the co-starring of Canadian master thespian and Slings and Arrows star Paul Gross!  I mean, come on people!)

So this may just be the best thing for playwright D'Amour, to feel like a successful playwright in a nice sold-out run instead of having your commercial producers breathe down your neck while you watch from a half-empty theatre.

My only regret is, knowing Playwrights Horizons' pricing policies and limited press/blogger invites, this will now be a much harder and/or more expensive show for me to see than it would if I could walk up to TKTS a half-hour before curtain and get a $40 ticket no questions asked, since they would be dying to fill the house. But hey that's just me.

The other possible downside is that the play's star at Steppenwolf, Laurie Metcalf, may not be able to do the new production. Perhaps she wouldn't be willing to either, given it's a new director, new cast, and totally new staging of the show. But at least with Anne Kauffman there is a formidable director indeed.

All in all, just another reminder that the real American theatre is not happening on Broadway and the gulf between the two gets wider and wider. There might as well be a sign above Times Square for non-dead, non-British playwrights: "Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter..."

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