Thursday evening, the second revival of Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee's 1955 drama Inherit The Wind opened at Broadway's Lyceum Theatre. Helmed this go-round by Doug Hughes (Doubt), the production's stellar cast includes Brian Dennehy, Christopher Plummer, Byron Jennings and Denis O'Hare. Most of the reviews are glowing.
Calling this a "dynamic production," Variety's David Rooney files a favorable notice: "Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee's play is a sterling example of the best of mid-'50s American drama, with its rock-solid construction, incisively drawn characters and unequivocally liberal-leaning moral lucidity. It's also a prime specimen of a breed of compelling courtroom drama now usurped by television in 'Law & Order' and its procedural imitators....Bracing and vivid, (its) muscular start sets the tone for a remarkably brisk production, condensed from the original three acts to two, clocking in at a pithy two hours with no adverse signs of compression."
Saying Wind "holds up pretty damn well," New York Post's Clive Barnes provides a three star review: "In a brashly manipulative play that pushes all the right buttons, the blustering Dennehy and the cunning Plummer pounded those buttons with unashamedly flaunting brilliance. And there is a very special fun in watching these two as trial lawyers, punching and counter-punching like elderly champions putting on a carefully calculated show, directed, almost refereed I imagine, by Doug Hughes."
Elysa Gardner of USA Today also offers three out of four stars: "To say that the play is at least as topical now as it was in 1955 is not to say that it doesn't show its age. Lawrence and Lee's account of the battle between Matthew Harrison Brady (Brian Dennehy) and Henry Drummond (Christopher Plummer)...can seem quaint, both in its characterization of small-town life and its depiction of how sophisticated folk match wits. Luckily, this revival, which opened Thursday at the Lyceum Theatre, stars a pair of actors who could mop the sap from any chestnut."
Proclaiming the show's pairing of Plummer and Dennehy "eminently satisfying," Associated Press' Michael Kuchwara is positive: "It takes two larger-than-life actors to make Inherit the Wind really crackle, and its latest Broadway revival has come up with quite a pair -- Christopher Plummer and Brian Dennehy. The play...is an old-fashioned, American courtroom drama. Yet today, the subject matter still sounds contemporary, and director Doug Hughes has given the work a streamlined, fast-paced production that manages to get the most out of this cannily constructed entertainment now on view at the Lyceum Theatre."
"Wooden" is how Ben Brantley of The New York Times describes the revival: "Mr. Plummer has the audience eating from his hand as soon as he snaps his suspenders....Still, for this play to be the crackling courtroom drama it was intended to be, we need to feel the force of Drummond’s opposition. And not one soul on the side of creationism in this revival, directed by Doug Hughes, has a flicker of Mr. Plummer’s fire. Sadly, that includes the estimable Mr. Dennehy....This glaring imbalance means that Wind never musters much more velocity than that of a drugstore fan."
With an amazing cast fueling it with added mojo, it's no wonder that the production has already been pulling in capacities of around 80%. Inherit The Wind's limited run at the Lyceum is currently scheduled through July 8.
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Inherit Evolves Into Opening Night (April 12, 2007)
Is It Just Me, Or...(Part II) (February 21, 2007)