TIME Theater

Al Pacino Is Returning to Broadway to Star in David Mamet’s New Play

Al Pacino, Barry Levinson
In this Aug. 30, 2014 file photo, actor Al Pacino poses during the photo call for the movie "The Humbling" at the 71st edition of the Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy. Andrew Medichini—AP

In 2012, Pacino wowed audiences as the star of Mamet's Pulitzer Prize-winning Glengarry Glen Ross

Al Pacino will return to Broadway next fall in a new production by playwright David Mamet, who describes his latest work as “better than oral sex.”

Mamet, who has worked with the Tony and Oscar-winning Pacino on four previous projects, says he wrote the latest play, China Doll, “for Al,” The Hollywood Reporter says.

China Doll, set to open next October at New York City’s Shubert Theater, is “about a wealthy man, his young fiancé and an airplane,” says Mamet, in a statement.

“The man has just bought a new plane as a wedding present for the girl. He intends to go into semiretirement, and enjoy himself,” Mamet continues. “He’s in the process of leaving his office, and is giving last minute instructions to his young assistant. He takes one last phone call…”

“The characters are Mickey Ross, a billionaire; Carson, the assistant, and a telephone,” Mamet says. “It is better than oral sex.”

Pacino said in a statement that China Doll was a chance “to create a new character in the David Mamet canon.”

“So Dave gave me China Doll, a new play he had written for me and it blew me away,” said Pacino, calling his part “one of the most daunting and challenging roles I’ve been given to explore onstage.”

“It’s a special gift to originate a role in the theatre, especially written by such a formidable writer,” he said, “and I haven’t done that in a long, long time.”

[The Hollywood Reporter]

TIME Theater

It’s Only a Play on Broadway: Inside Job

It’s Only a PlayGerald Schoenfeld Theatre
©2014 Joan Marcus

Terrence McNally's '80s comedy has been updated, but the laughs still seem tired

It seems ungracious be too harsh on It’s Only a Play — the revival of Terrence McNally’s 1986 comedy that has just opened on Broadway. McNally, a New York theater mainstay who once wrote funny plays (Bad Habits, Next) before winning Tonys for Love! Valour! Compassion! and Master Class, concocted the work as a frothy send-up of Broadway, packed with inside jokes, topical references and catty theater-world wisecracks. For the new revival, the references and in-jokes have been updated (from Charles Nelson Reilly and Arlene Francis to Harvey Fierstein and Kelly Ripa). The new production, moreover, has attracted the most star-studded cast of the Broadway season, headed by Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, together again for the third time (after The Producers and the 2005 revival of The Odd Couple). The jokes are nonstop, most of them get big laughs, and the standing ovation starts almost before the curtain can drop.

But holy David Merrick — what a mess. We’re at the opening night party of a new Broadway show, written by a celebrated but insecure playwright (Broderick) and attended by his good friend (Lane), an actor now doing sitcoms in Hollywood. The room quickly fills with the Broadway equivalent of the bomber crew from an old World War II movie. There’s the show’s rich but clueless producer (Megan Mullally); its eccentric, critically acclaimed British director (Rupert Grint); an alcoholic, over-the-hill leading lady (Stockard Channing); a pompous theater critic (F. Murray Abraham) who, for some inexplicable reason, is hanging out for the evening with the people whose show he is about to trash; and an eager young coat-check attendant (Micah Stock) who is entranced by the whole scene.

I wasn’t. The jokes may be updated, but the satiric targets seem awfully familiar: the influx of British shows, actors who leave the theater to do bad television, critics who secretly want to write plays, and anybody who lives outside the Big Apple. (“New York without the theater is… Newark.”) No joke is too lame that it can’t be repeated a half-dozen times (a character named Wicker mistakenly called Wacker) and flogged mercilessly. Any decent sitcom writer could have boiled the thing down to a passable 60 minutes, but at two bloated acts, the show is both self-indulgent and interminable.

There is no plot, just the ginned-up suspense of waiting for the reviews to come out. In the ’80s, the New York TV stations all had Broadway reviewers, and the wait at least made some real-time dramatic sense. Now the TV critics are gone, and so characters are forced, awkwardly, to simply repeat the print reviews as they’re read to them over the telephone. The New York Times’ Ben Brantley is name-checked so often that he should be getting Equity scale for the show. (Brantley was sitting two rows in front of me at the preview performance I saw, and seemed to be a good sport about it.)

As for the starry cast, it’s a decidedly mixed bag. Lane is his usual vibrant, ingratiating self, milking every laugh with his rubbery eyebrows and crack comic timing. Channing is fine as the drunk diva, and Abraham, that old pro, does the best he can with the patently ridiculous part of the critic. But Rupert Grint (of Harry Potter fame), dressed in a garishly patterned three-piece suit, looks like a refugee from Carnaby Street in the 1960s, not a parody of the grunge-chic British esthetic of today. Mullally’s spaced-out, vaguely southern producer is grating from start to finish. As for Broderick — well, his monotonous, winsome, sing-songy acting style has become something akin to kabuki theater. Any resemblance to an actual living person is purely coincidental.

Yes, it’s only a play, and a sellout hit besides. But for Broadway audiences — at least the ones who don’t attend Terrence McNally’s opening-night parties — it’s only a trifle.

TIME Theater

Broadway Mind Games: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Theater-Curious Incident of the Dog
This image released by Boneau/Bryan-Brown shows the cast during a performance of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," in London. Brinkhoff-Moegenburg—AP

A dead dog, an autistic genius and an extraordinary play from London

“Don’t you ever think about other people for one second?” a character demands of Christopher Boone, the 15-year-old protagonist of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. The line, which comes late in the play, would be funny if it weren’t so tragically dense.

Christopher, inside whose world we are thrust in Simon Stephens’ extraordinary play, is autistic. He is unable to have normal social interactions or to handle stimuli from the outside that upset his familiar, carefully ordered reality. He avoids eye contact. A mere touch sends him into hysterics. He takes words literally and cannot process new and complicated information — unless it relates to numbers, at which he is something of a genius. The diagnosis today would be Asperger’s disorder, though neither that term nor the word “autism” is ever spoken in the play.

One of the achievements of this stage adaptation of the bestselling 2003 novel by Mark Haddon is that it is a play about a disabled teenager that totally avoids medical explanations, or conventional, courage-in-the-face-of-illness sentimentality. The play, which has just opened on Broadway after acclaimed runs at London’s National Theatre and on the West End, is part mystery story, part family drama, part young-adult adventure tale. But mostly it’s a demonstration of the power of theater to transport us to exotic places, none more exotic than the inside workings of a discombobulated human mind.

Like such previous British stage triumphs as War Horse and Matilda: The Musical, the play seems to have been imagined in entirely fresh, wonderfully utilitarian theatrical terms. The set is a black box of cross-hatched graph paper — the grid of Christopher’s rigid but wildly disconnected mind, Director Marianne Elliott (who was also the mastermind behind War Horse) orchestrates a dazzling array of sound and light effects, video projections and choreographed movement by a group of actors who remain onstage at all times — alternately handling props, helping animate scenes by impersonating kitchen appliances and other household objects, and playing all the people in Christopher’s life.

The plot is minimal. The dog of the title appears in the play’s first startling, flashbulb-lit image — dead on a neighbor’s lawn, gruesomely impaled by a pitchfork. Christopher, though first suspected of the crime, sets out to solve it, in his obsessive, rigidly logical manner. In the process he discovers deeper secrets about his family — the gruff but caring father (Ian Barford) with whom he lives, and a mother (Enid Graham) from whom he has been parted for years.

In lieu of the novel’s first-person narrative, the play tells much of the story through Christopher’s own writing — a story he has presumably written, read aloud in snatches by his teacher (Francesca Faridany). But his point of view is most vividly conveyed by the inventive, subjective staging. Christopher’s trip to London, alone for the first time in a bewildering environment, is a particularly harrowing sensory assault — a cacophany of signs, voices, heedless crowds, hurtling subway trains, an escalator that appears out of thin air. But it’s more than just a sound-and-light show: a pantomimed sequence in which Christopher tries to negotiate a commuter-train bathroom is a tiny masterpiece of wordless, detailed theater-verite.

Alex Sharp, a recent Julliard graduate who is making his Broadway debut, is stunningly good as Christopher. He does wonders with his eyes — squinting as if shying away from the light one minute, wide-eyed with wonder the next, never really focusing but always sharpening our focus on his disoriented mind. Every single cast member — all Americans, though you wouldn’t guess it — forms an indispensable piece of the seamless whole. The Curious Incident is a real Broadway curiosity, a play that works on every level — crowd-pleasing, eye-opening, life-affirming and unmissable.

TIME Theater

Lindsay Lohan Doesn’t Make or Break the London Production of Speed-The-Plow

Lindsay Lohan and Richard Schiff in the London Playhouse production of "Speed-The-Plow" Simon Annand

The movie-turned-tabloid star takes a crack at the stage in a revival of David Mamet's showbiz satire

“I know what it is to be bad.”

The line, from David Mamet’s play Speed-The-Plow, belongs to the earnest secretary Karen, who is desperate to convince her Hollywood boss that she understands him. It’s not ordinarily a punchline. But when uttered by Lindsay Lohan, who has taken on the role in London’s West End in her stage debut, the line draws big laughs from the audience. While Karen initially seems as wholesome as can be, LiLo has long made headlines for being “bad.”

The 28-year-old star — rumored to be uninsurable on most film sets these days due to her extracurricular exploits that have included not only rehab, but jail time — has taken numerous cracks at a comeback over the last few years. From a racy role in Paul Schrader’s The Canyons to her portrayal of Elizabeth Taylor in Lifetime’s Liz & Dick to her OWN reality series, it’s clear that Lohan wants to keep working despite her troubled personal life. Yet none of her recent efforts have managed to pull her career out of the tabloid circus its become. So it’s not surprising that the theater was packed on Thursday night with people eager to see whether Lohan would pull off a comeback — or instead make a train wreck of the production.

Speed-The-Plow, which was first staged on Broadway in 1988 with Madonna in the role of Karen, satirizes the greediness and emptiness of Hollywood, a theme that seems even more timely today thanks to the mounting ubiquity of sequels and brainless blockbusters. The action revolves around Bobby Gould (played by Richard Schiff, of The West Wing fame), a newly promoted head of production at a big studio, and his longtime associate, Charlie Fox (played by British actor Nigel Lindsay), who brings Gould a potentially career-making deal: an iffy-sounding script with a major actor willing to star. Yet Karen, Gould’s temp assistant and the object of a sleazy bet between the two men, becomes invested in a highfalutin novel about radiation that she’s been asked to give a “courtesy read.” She passionately tries to convince Gould to pitch the radiation movie to the studio head, rather than the iffy-sounding blockbuster, playing on his sense of morality and his attraction to her in the process.

Lohan was no train wreck, though there was one point where she flubbed her lines and needed an off-stage line prompt. Yet the snafu didn’t lead her to break character, which — in spite of her seasoned, raspy voice and unavoidable real-life reputation — she stepped into rather well. Though it might be hard to imagine Lohan playing innocent in 2014, her wide-eyed interactions with the bitter Hollywood execs brought to mind shades of Cady Heron, her naive Mean Girls character.

It wasn’t a polished performance, by any means, and she rushed a good number of her lines. Still, she didn’t hold the production back. Though Schiff is also a star in his own right, his performance was too tired and down-trodden. Of the three, Lindsay — Nigel Lindsay, that is — brought the most to the play, managing to maintain the intensity and speed that the snappy dialogue needs to land right. His rage over the news that Gould is passing on his big-break deal and the two men’s subsequent fight provides the most powerful energy in the play.

On the whole, the production was underwhelmed, with just a few stand-out moments. Everyone involved — cast, crew and audience — seemed to know the real attraction was Lohan herself, but no one will be calling it a comeback. In the end, Lohan’s fans and detractors are likely both relieved and disappointed: she didn’t make the production, but she didn’t break it, either.

TIME Theater

Review: Crown Jewel: King Charles III in London

Britain King Charles III
Matt Dunham—AP

Mike Bartlett's brilliant new play imagines what happens when Prince Charles finally becomes king

I made a theatergoing trip to London recently, and my main target of opportunity was King Charles III — Mike Bartlett’s “future history play” about the ascension of Prince Charles to the throne, which has just opened on the West End after a buzzed-about run last spring at the Almeida Theatre. By chance, I saw the play on the night before the vote on Scottish independence — the momentous referendum that dominated the headlines and flooded the TV airwaves like no other political event in recent British history.

The confluence seemed perfectly fitting. For years, British plays have been far more engaged in the public arena — dramatizing current events, commenting on political issues and public figures — than their American counterparts. (Another hot ticket in London right now is Great Britain, Richard Bean’s fictionalized account of the British tabloid hacking scandals.) King Charles III isn’t just an up-to-the-minute political drama, as timely and relevant as the daily headlines. It often seems just another extension of them. A brief reference in the play to the inviolable British union even had to be tweaked slightly when “Scotland” was mentioned — not an easy thing to do with a play written in blank verse.

King Charles III‘s subject may be au-courant, but its form is self-consciously Shakespearean. The dialogue is delivered almost entirely in stately, yet surprisingly fluid, iambic pentameter, with modern slang (“You’re f—— joking”) sitting comfortably next to eloquent soliloquys and direct-to-the-audience exposition, and echoes of everything from Henry IV to Macbeth. There’s even the ghost of Princess Diana — played, miraculously, not for laughs.

Indeed, the remarkable thing about King Charles III is its rigorous seriousness. The play revolves around real-life people who have been caricatured endlessly in the gossip press, and yet it turns them into nuanced, flesh-and-blood human beings. It posits a future political scenario, but never slips off the rails into apocalyptic fantasy or cheap satire. It is a gripping evening of theater, a rare contemporary play with real tragic vision, and easily the sharpest, most sophisticated political drama I have ever seen on stage.

The play begins shortly after Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, as Charles — impersonated by Tim Pigott-Smith with great soberness and sympathy — is already agonizing over the crown that is finally his. The inevitable titters in the audience are dispensed with quickly as familiar faces troop onstage: Camilla (Margot Leicester), Charles’ always-supportive wife; William (Oliver Chris), his dutiful, rather stuffy elder son; Harry (Richard Goulding), the restless younger son with a roving eye and the un-Windsor-like red hair. (“Is Charles really your Dad?” says a girl he meets in a bar. “Or was it the other one?”)

It is Charles’ determination to rescue the monarchy from irrelevance that precipitates a constitutional crisis. While getting a routine briefing from his prime minister (Adam Jones, with hints of both David Cameron and Tony Blair), Charles balks at a bill passed by parliament that would put restrictions on freedom of the press. Concerned that the law would undermine the foundations of the democracy he is sworn to protect, Charles refuses to sign the bill. With polite deference but growing alarm, the PM protests that the king’s signature is merely ceremonial — that he does not have the power to flout the will of the people’s elected representatives.

Charles stands fast. Both political parties unite in their outrage, introducing a measure in Parliament that would strip the king of his power to approve legislation. Charles, rightly seeing the move as a threat to the very existence of the monarchy, responds by dissolving Parliament. The upshot is something approaching civil war — both in the country and in the royal family.

Bartlett (best known in the U.S. for Cock, his provocatively titled comedy of sexual confusion) and director Rupert Goold explore the ramifications of the crisis with plausibility, even-handedness — and empathy for nearly everyone involved. Charles may be a dithering pedant, but he has the integrity of his conviction that the monarchy, if it exists at all, must be something more than “a pretty, plastic picture with no meaning.” The political maneuvering is as intricate and Machiavellian as anything in House of Cards, but the combatants all have good, sincere reasons for their irreconcilable positions. There may be a touch of Lady Macbeth in the pushy and deceptive Kate Middleton — who eggs on William to oppose his father — but there’s also something admirable in her pragmatic, can-do attitude in this family of wusses.

If there’s a villain in the play, it is the system itself: a monarchy that inspires respect, even reverence — except when it actually tries to prove it has a reason for being. The Scots ended up voting to stay in the union. King Charles III audaciously, even brilliantly, lays bare the illogic of the monarchy that props up that fragile, sceptered isle.

TIME Theater

Doctor Zhivago Is Heading to Broadway This Spring

Cast memaCast members perform during a media call for the Doctor Zhivago musical romance in Sydney on Feb. 17, 2011.
Cast members perform during a media call for the Doctor Zhivago musical romance in Sydney on Feb. 17, 2011. Greg Wood—AFP/Getty Images

Yuri not even gonna believe this new musical

A musical version of the romantic epic Doctor Zhivago is heading to Broadway in March, the Hollywood Reporter says. Preview performances of the show based on Russian author Boris Pasternak’s 1957 novel, which spawned the 1965 Oscar-winning film adaptation starring Omar Sharif and Julie Christie, will begin on March 27, with the show set to open on April 21 at the Broadway Theatre.

The musical is being directed by Des McAnuff, a two-time Tony Award winner who has headed up productions including Jersey Boys, Jesus Christ Superstar, and The Who’s Tommy.


TIME Theater

Death and the Maiden: Meryl Streep’s Tribute to Philip Roth

Meryl Streep and the Takacs String Quartet
Meryl Streep and the Takacs String Quartet applaud Philip Roth, in the audience at an event presented by Princeton University Concerts. Denise Applewhite—Princeton University Office of Communications

A one-time performance honors the now-retired novelist's Everyman

“The first time I saw Brenda she asked me to hold her glasses.”

With that opening sentence of Goodbye, Columbus, Philip Roth stepped into his writing career in 1959 at the age of 26. So it had the feeling of a bookend this past Friday night when, with the 81-year-old Roth sitting smiling in the audience, Meryl Streep walked onto the stage of Alexander Hall on the Princeton University campus.

Wearing a serious expression and serious attire (black wrap dress, high heels, hoop earrings), Streep took her chair next to a string quartet, crossed her bare legs, and pushed her black glasses to the bridge of her nose. With blonde hair pulled into a ponytail, she looked both sophisticated at the same time. She might as well be Brenda Patimkin of Goodbye, Columbus–glasses and all—the first of the alluring shiksas who have served as lust objects for Roth’s males over the years. Streep did in fact grow up in Summit, New Jersey, just five miles up the road from Brenda’s fictional house in Short Hills.

Streep is here to do a one-time performance, reading selections from Roth’s meditation-on-death novella, Everyman, accompanied by a string quartet and a star-struck audience of 900. This is the only the second-ever performance of this reading. The actor Philip Seymour Hoffman did the first, but he died earlier this year. Death is everywhere tonight.

Streep begins to read, and immediately we are transported to a funeral somewhere in New Jersey—an open grave, eulogies from an ex-wife, then an older brother. The musicians watch her quietly, as Roth listens attentively from his seat in the orchestra.

The project was born a few years ago when Ed Dusinberre, the British-born first violinist of the Takács String Quartet, was reading Everyman, Roth’s indictment of death, against old age, against the loss of erotic energy that is the source of life. One of its cheerier lines: “Old age isn’t a battle; old age is a massacre.” But Dusinberre, who has a reputation for innovative programming, wondered if Everyman could be excerpted and performed with music—specifically, with Franz Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden”, written shortly before the composer died of syphilis at age 31.

“Schubert used music as a dialogue with the terrified maiden,” Dusinberre explains. “Roth’s novel shows us how youth becomes an important theme as we approach death. And it has leitmotifs, scenes in the cemetery that suit a musical treatment.”

Dusinberre knew that Roth had heard his group play in the past, “so that gave me the courage to approach him.” To Dusinberre’s astonishment, Roth said yes. The program was originally performed at Carnegie Hall in 2007 with Hoffman reading. But after Hoffman’s sudden death — an event eerily in keeping with Everyman‘s dark themes—the program returned to the stage last weekend for a single performance at Princeton. Roth had suggested Streep to replace Hoffman — and she accepted out of friendship and admiration, despite going into rehearsals for her next movie.

Roth made the trip from his home in suburban Connecticut, moving slowly these days and wielding a cane, as if to ward off the ravages of age, and relying on friends to help him in and out of the car. But he brightens on arrival, smiling and answering questions about when he last taught at Princeton (“That was in 1962!”). He is no longer writing new work — but protests that he never “announced” his retirement from writing but simply stopped. For that matter, he no longer keeps up with new literary fiction.

Streep reads in a mellifluous voice, starting with the novel’s matter-of-fact opening paragraphs, then building emotion as she flourishes her virtuoso accents — an angry relative from New Jersey chastising his wife at the gravesite, a black gravedigger from the South describing the careful craft of digging a grave. Her readings are punctuated by melancholic musical selections from the contemporary composer Arvo Pärt. The Schubert quartet is played in its entirety after the intermission.

The humor of Portnoy’s Complaint is hard to find in Everyman. All of the readings are from scenes set at a rundown cemetery near Roth’s old home in Newark. As his narrator describes it, “By now the place has become the butt end of the airport and what you’re hearing from a few miles away is the steady din of the New Jersey Turnpike.”

Roth marvels at how accurately Streep interprets “everything I intended when I wrote it.” Before the concert, answering a questioner who wonders if his protagonist is “not so average,” Roth jokes, “Perhaps you would rather that I called the book Every Other Man.”

Suddenly, after finishing Roth’s euphoric reminiscence of a childhood day of swimming at the Jersey Shore, Streep falls silent. Death has arrived for Everyman, when he least expected it. A hushed silence. The lights come up. Standing ovation. Streep throws both hands out in the direction of the darkened seats in at center orchestra. And Philip Roth grins and gives a broad, sweeping wave of his straightened arm to everyone present.

Landon Jones is a former managing editor of People and Money magazines and the author of Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation. Pia de Jong is a literary novelist who moved to the US two years ago. She publishes a weekly column in the Amsterdam newspaper NRC Handelsblad about her life in America.

TIME Theater

The Lion King Musical Is Now the Highest-Grossing Box Office Draw Ever

Buyi Zama, Buyisile Zama
A scene during a performance of Disney's "The Lion King," in Las Vegas. Darrin Bush—AP

And not just for musicals

Disney’s stage musical version of The Lion King has grossed more than $6.2 billion worldwide, according to a new report, making it the biggest box office hit of any work in any medium of all time.

The Lion King musical, directed by Julie Taymor and based off the animated Disney movie, has raked in more than any Harry Potter film, any Hunger Games movie, or Frozen. Avatar, which is the highest-grossing movie in history, has made less than half of what The Lion King musical has made, at $2.8 billion worldwide gross. The Associated Press reports that the Lion King musical eclipsed The Phantom of the Opera, the previous highest-grossing work, late this summer.

The Phantom of the Opera, with a box office gross of about $6 billion, is still the longest-running show of all time since debuting in London in 1986.


TIME Theater

Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin, Tavi Gevinson: This Is Our Audition

Kieran Culkin and Michael Cera in This Is Our Youth Brigitte Lacombe

Kenneth Lonergan's This Is Our Youth boasts three Broadway debuts, and one great performance

Warren is a f—up. At least, that’s what everybody tells him: his father, a successful, vaguely mob-connected businessman who has just thrown him out of the house; his drug-dealing friend Dennis, on whose doorstep he shows up toting a suitcase filled with $15,000 in cash he has stolen from his dad; most of the girls whom he has had chased after with very little success, as his taunting friend keeps reminding him.

Dennis doesn’t want Warren around: there’s not enough room in his disheveled Manhattan apartment, he’s in the midst of breaking up with his girlfriend, and besides, the bumbling Warren hasn’t been there for 20 minutes before he’s accidentally trashed the place with an errant football. But Warren does offer one intriguing compensation: the $15,000, which Dennis proposes to use to finance a new drug deal — ostensibly to earn back the money Warren has already spent from his father’s stash, but mostly just to prove that Dennis is the baddest dealer in the neighborhood.

Kenneth Lonergan’s 1996 play This Is Our Youth may look, in some superficial ways, like a familiar slacker comedy — though, set in the 1980s, it takes place at least a decade before the term became popular and Judd Apatow had even graduated from film school. But it’s a rarity on Broadway: a rich, rueful and really funny comedy.

The play’s comic engine is the interplay between Dennis and Warren, two rich kids suffering in different ways from their dysfunctional upbringing. The clash between the manic, abusive Dennis and the disaffected, childlike Warren has the contours of a classic comedy team — Abbott and Costello, or Martin and Lewis, or Lane and Broderick. Kieran Culkin, one-third of the starry cast that has brought Lonergan’s off-Broadway success to Broadway, is terrific as Dennis: confident and resourceful onstage, with the hopped-up intensity of a young Al Pacino and a slow burn that Jackie Gleason might envy. Yet he also hints gracefully at the loneliness and insecurity that lies beneath the bluster. It’s a great comic performance.

As Warren (the role originally played off-Broadway by Mark Ruffalo) Michael Cera is less satisfying. His sweetly affectless screen persona (from films like Superbad and Juno) is too puzzling and opaque here. He seems uncertain and tentative in his first Broadway appearance, his arms hanging lifelessly to his side, his voice a blank, high-pitched monotone. Still, he is an ingratiating presence, plays well off Culkin, and at least doesn’t hurt the production.

Tavi Gevinson does. The teenage media mogul (and acting newbie) plays Jessica, the cute girl who shows up, a little implausibly, in Dennis’s apartment and gets it on with Warren. She is too wired and high-pitched — her voice a clenched knot of anxieties, her body pitched forward as if she were a subway commuter trying to catch sight of the E train. Director Anna D. Shapiro (who first staged the show last June at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater) may have encouraged this odd take to cover up Gevinson’s uncertainty as an actress. But it throws the play out of whack for the two scenes in which she appears.

Whenever Culkin is onstage, however, This Is Our Youth sails along. Lonergan’s writing is sharp and subtle, suggesting a vivid array of offstage characters (Dennis’s drug connections, the girlfriend he alternately abuses and fawns over on the phone, the thugs who work for Warren’s Tony Soprano-like father) and neatly slipping in bits of sad back-story (Warren had a sister who was murdered) without spoiling the comedy. It’s a lopsided production, but a strong play that looks even better today than it did 18 years ago.

TIME Theater

Michael C. Hall to Play Transsexual Rocker Hedwig on Broadway

PaleyFestPreviews: Fall TV - Fall Farewell: "Dexter"
Michael C. Hall at The Paley Center for Media on Sept. 12, 2013, in Beverly Hills, California. Paul Archuleta—FilmMagic/Getty Images

The Dexter star will replace Andrew Rannells, who took over the role from Neil Patrick Harris

Michael C. Hall will be seen on Broadway in heels and a miniskirt from Oct. 16 after the actor accepted the role of German transsexual rocker Hedwig in the popular musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the Associated Press reports.

Hall is best known for playing a funeral director in HBO’s Six Feet Under and a serial killer in Dexter, both of which earned him Emmy nominations. Most recently, he joined Marisa Tomei, Toni Collette and Tracy Letts on stage this spring in Will Eno’s play The Realistic Joneses.

The lead role in Hedwig and the Angry Inch is currently being played by Andrew Rannells of The Book of Mormon fame and who also starred in the HBO series Girls. Rannells replaced How I Met Your Mother star Neil Patrick Harris and will end his stint as Hedwig on Oct. 12.


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