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This Week on Stage: Ewan McGregor, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Sting

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Real Thing
Joan Marcus

This week marked the Broadway bows of actors Ewan McGregor and Maggie Gyllenhaal and one Gordon Sumner, but we all know him better as musician Sting (though, to be clear, this the composing debut of original music by Sting on Broadway; he actually appeared in a production of 3 Penny Opera on the boards 25 years ago). McGregor and Gyllenhaal are no strangers to the stage either, the former got raves for his smooth crooner in Guys and Dolls in the West End years back (why, oh why, didn’t we get that one too?), and Gyllenhaal has been quietly doing the classics downtown for some time now and brother Jake is getting in on the Broadway act too. Tyne Daly will also return to the Main Stem next spring after her triumphant, Tony-nommed turn in Terrence McNally’s Mothers and Sons this year with the David Hyde Pierce-directed musical comedy It Shoulda Been You, which will also feature ace songstress Sierra Boggess and, notably, Neil Patrick Harris’s better half David Burtka returning to Broadway after several years–and this is all in conjunction with both of them appearing on American Horror Story this season. Where, oh where, do these guys find the time? EW staffers also found some time to check out all of the new openings this week, which also include the first play by acclaimed novelist Walter Mosley and an eye-opening first part to Suzan Lori-Parks’ planned nine-part history opus (click on the links below for full reviews):

Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3)  Pultizer-winner Suzan Lori-Parks is no stranger to lofty projects (her 365 Plays/365 Days was exactly that), but her latest production at the Public Theater may be her most ambitious yet. And according to senor editor Thom Geier, it is most certainly one of her very best: “Parks’ stunning new drama is that rare work of art: one that bears the heavy burden of its subject matter—the peculiar institution of American slavery—but that carries it lightly.” EW grade: A

The Last Ship  You can hear hits like “All This Time” and “When We Dance” in rocker Sting’s new musical about shipbuilders in a coastal British town fighting the winds of change both literally and figuratively, but most of the show’s tunes are completely original, entering him in the rockers-turned-composer canon that recently has included Bono and Cyndi Lauper. Senior writer Kyle Anderson says that “despite the relative lack of variety in the music and the hole-friendly narrative, there’s a lot to like about The Last Ship…but Sting’s score remains a burden, anchoring this Ship when it should be making bigger waves.” EW grade: B–

Lift  Mystery writer Walter Mosley enters the playwriting realm with a new work about coworkers trapped in a NYC office building elevator. However, EW’s Joe McGovern thinks this first foray crashes right down to the basement floor. “The production also successfully simulates the claustrophobic dilemma on stage with its running time—it’s a painful 1 hour and 50 minutes with no intermission…perhaps producers were worried that, after a short break, the 196-seat theater would be about as full as that onstage elevator.” EW grade: D

Lips Together, Teeth Apart  Terrence McNally is all over NYC theater these days, even with an oldie-but-goodie-in this case, his 1991 Fire Island Pines-set drama about two couples navigating their marriages through the age of AIDS. “As McNally’s play bounces back and forth haphazardly between throwaway one-liners, the production starts to unravel”, says Melissa Rose Bernardo in her review, adding “perhaps we just caught them on a bad weekend.” EW grade: C+

The Real Thing  Tom Stoppard’s highly-awarded relationship drama (which–back in 1984–featured one this production’s stars, Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon, in a smaller role) gets its second Broadway revival over the course of 30 years, with Ewan McGregor and Maggie Gyllenhaal taking on the central couple, a playwright and his new actress wife who struggle to find their bliss. Thom Geier has high praise for the Broadway newbies, citing McGregor as “confident and sexy” and Gyllenhaal as “a chillier but still effective presence”. The review adds, “director Sam Gold’s fussy production blurs the distinction between scenes with a single drab set and cast-sung interludes of ’60s pop.” EW grade: B+