This Week on Stage: 'Sex With Strangers' with Anna Gunn, Dee Snider's puppet Bard
Anna Gunn could very well win her second consecutive Emmy for Breaking Bad in about three weeks on the West Coast—but right now, she’s laying down some East Coast roots in Sex With Strangers, a new drama directed by David Schwimmer. The role is only the actress’s second major New York City stage part (she was in the supporting cast of The Rehearsal opposite Frances Conroy and Roger Rees back on Broadway in 1996), but the reviews for her and costar Billy Magnussen (soon to be seen in the long-awaited film of James Lapine/Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods; by the way, have you seen that spiffy trailer yet?), like the one we’ll provide you below, indicate she’ll get more love from theatergoers than Skyler White ever did as a character.
In other news, 2014 marks a banner year in which both Woody Allen and Mia Farrow scored Broadway shows. His self-penned Bullets Over Broadway will sleep with the fishes on Aug. 24, while Farrow begins a stint in A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters on Sept. 13, her first Broadway appearance since 1980’s Romantic Comedy. And no, I’m not counting her voice work in the megabomb Stephen Sondheim (him again!) play Getting Away With Murder. Letters will feature a rotating cast that will also include Brian Dennehy, Carol Burnett, Alan Alda, Anjelica Huston, Martin Sheen and Game of Thrones‘ Diana Rigg, so it’s kind of a choose-your-own-veteran actor-adventure. And speaking of adventures, this week offered a cornucopia of new ones Off Broadway, including a bloody puppet bacchanal presented by the frontman for Twisted Sister, a new play from a scribe of Girls and Looking on HBO, and the sterling return of one of NYC’s most-emerged playwrights.
Click on the links below for full reviews:
Between Riverside and Crazy: It’s been three years since Stephen Adly Guirgis’ ace relationship play The Motherf—er With the Hat, which garnered Tony nominations for Guirgis and three of its actors, including the marvelous Bobby Cannavale. The playwright’s latest takes shape at downtown NYC’s Atlantic Theater Company, the theatrical home cofounded by fellow foul-mouthed scribe David Mamet. It also proves more than ever that he may be Mamet’s worthiest successor. My review states plainly that this is “quite possibly his most accomplished piece to date…the delicate shifts in directorial tone (with a great assist by Walt Spangler’s oddly comforting turntable apartment set) enhance the twisted, cyclical (and even spiritual) logic of the play. Some moments are so quietly observant you almost feel as if you’re eavesdropping.” EW grade: A
Mala Hierba: A quartet of women try to get on near the Texas border in this new play by Tanya Saracho, an up-and-comer making a name in TV writing. Did EW’s Joe McGovern think she has the stuff for the stage? “The gifted quartet of actresses establish an air of unpredictability that energizes the 85-minute piece through its swaying plot twists to a rather pat conclusion,” his review states. He also praises its performers, especially Ana Nogueira—formerly of The Michael J. Fox Show—who “plays Fabiola as a horror show of malice and manipulation.” EW grade: B
Puppet Titus Andronicus: Dee Snider has conquered the industries of music and film, but who knew he had a great desire to tackle the boards? (Well, besides Patti LuPone.) Melissa Rose Bernardo indicates that perhaps Mr. Snider shouldn’t take on this new night job quite so soon while reviewing his naughty, bloody take on one of the Bard’s most gruesome tragedies. “Puppet Shakespeare seems perfect for high school kids who think the Bard is uncool and inaccessible… [but] the entire proceedings are a little too loosey-goosey—to the point of appearing almost unrehearsed.” EW grade: C
Sex With Strangers: This new play by Laura Eason (a writer for House of Cards) showcases the many talents of stars Anna Gunn and Billy Magnussen (especially the latter’s green-with-envy-worthy abdominal region) in this tale of a female author shacked up in a wintry B&B with an arrogant, sexy younger blogger. Was senior editor Thom Geier all hot and bothered by their exploits? “There is no reason that playwright Eason’s frankly sitcommy premise should work. And yet it does, thanks to fluid direction by David Schwimmer (yes, that David Schwimmer) and charmingly forthright performances by the two-member cast…Anna Gunn projects both [the character’s] outward strength as well as the telling cracks of vulnerability.” EW grade: B+