This Week on Stage: Kenneth Branagh's NYC debut and Tony weekend!
The weekend of the Tonys has finally arrived, and EW will be your shepherd through the entire night, with reports from the red carpet and Radio City Music Hall, and senior editor Thom Geier and myself hosting a live blog of the entire ceremony, beginning at 8 p.m. ET when it airs on CBS. Host Hugh Jackman must already have his eyes on a prize for next season when he returns for Jerusalem playwright Jez Butterworth’s three-person drama The River, and other starry productions are slowly finding homes for next season. Glenn Close, John Lithgow, and Martha Plimpton will star in Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance this fall at the Golden, James Earl Jones returns to Broadway in You Can’t Take it With You at the Longacre, and Bradley Cooper’s long-awaited return to Broadway in The Elephant Man is solid, with he and costars Patricia Clarkson and Alessandro Nivola assuming the Booth Theatre, a relatively intimate house, and perfect for B. Coop oglers as he will be largely unclothed for a large portion of the play. In other news, Blue star Julia Stiles returns to NYC in an Off-Broadway in a new work Off Broadway called Phoenix (her first production since tackling David Mamet’s Oleanna in 2009).
But never fear, EW’s Thom Geier is still checking out the latest productions amidst the Tony tornado; this week’s offerings include Kenneth Branagh (above) in his first-ever NYC stage appearance, Boardwalk Empire and Man of Steel star Michael Shannon tearing up Eugene Ionesco in Brooklyn, and veteran English actor Jim Dale (the voice behind the Harry Potter audiobooks) in a bioplay about his considerable theater career (click on the links below for full reviews):
Just Jim Dale The 78 year-old sing and dance man (a Tony winner for Barnum nearly 35 years ago) gets his very own bio-show, courtesy of Roundabout Theatre Company, and Thom Geier was eventually by the charming Mr. Dale. He dubs it “a glorified cabaret act”, but goes on to say that Dale “emerges as something like the world’s coolest grandfather. He may not have the singing voice of his youth, and he may drag out some yarns and repeat himself occasionally, but you won’t regret the time spent at his proverbial knee.” EW grade: B
The Killer Theatre for a New Audience presents its newest production (in their lovely new thrust stage in Brooklyn), a three-hour revival of Eugene Ionesco’s absurdist classic in which the famously Bug-gy Michael Shannon shockingly does not play the titular character. But Thom Geier has mixed thoughts on his latest stage role: “It’s not that [Shannon] lacks charisma, but more that the part calls for a greater variety and range, a bigger bag of theatrical tricks, than he’s able to summon here.” But kind words are expressed for the “solid new revival,” even if it “spins its wheels a bit in some of the longer two-handed scenes.” EW grade: B
Macbeth The Scottish Play gets yet another NYC workout and just when you thought you might tire of them for a lifetime, along comes this mud-flying, arena-sized mounting by Rob Ashford and Shakespearean dynamo and star Kenneth Branagh, who Thom Geier says does not disappoint in his inaugural stateside debut but it’s the production that also lingers in the mind. “The stagecraft is a wonder, from Neil Austin’s lighting design to Christopher Oram’s costumes and set — which cunningly evokes both a medieval church and Stonehenge”, says the review, “and in his moving final soliloquy, [Branagh] inserts a lengthy pause before spitting out the word idiot as if he has only just realized the folly of his strutting and fretting upon the dirt-clumped stage. In that brief speech, the actor manages to signify just about everything about his remarkable Macbeth.” EW grade: A-