Friday, June 15, 2007

Surely Ayckbourn Couldn't Be Lamenting These Actors?

Surely Ayckbourn Couldn't Be Lamenting These Actors?

As noted last January, acclaimed British playwright Sir Alan Ayckbourn offered a stinging screed that Hollywood stars are "ruining the theatre" via an interview with The Times of London. His concern was that if fans ventured into a theatre for the first time specifically to see their favorite stars only to leave " profoundly disappointed and disenchanted," they'd never come back.

Fast forward to this week, when separate stories of two high-profile film stars' detours via the Great White Way made the news.

First up was the word in Michael Riedel's New York Post column that Jake Gyllenhaal would likely make his Broadway debut via Beau Willimon's Farragut North, a political play based loosely on the communications team behind Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign. Hee-YAAAAAAAAAH!

Then came word earlier today via Variety's Gordon Cox that Annette Bening would return to Broadway for only her second time. After a twenty-year absence, she will star next April in Joanna Murray-Smith's The Female Of The Species under the direction of red-hot director Michael Mayer (who just won the Tony for Spring Awakening). In The Female Of The Species, "Mrs. Warren Beatty" will portray a feminist writer.

The comedy enjoyed its world premiere last September at Australia's Melbourne Theatre Company to good reviews. Prior to its Broadway berth, a February/March out-of-town tryout will play Hollywood's very own Geffen Playhouse.

It's hard for me to imagine either of these Tinsel Town stars ruining live theatre. As a three-time Oscar nominated actress, Bening has already proven her stage capability by earning a Tony nomination for her 1988 work in Tina Howe's Coastal Disturbances.

As for the young heartthrob actor, it's hard to forget his tender, Academy Award-nominated performance last year in "Brokeback Mountain." After participating in a Farragut North reading alongside such notable stage names as Denis O'Hare and Alison Pill (who, incidentally, is already scheduled to play opposite Bobby Cannavale this October in Manhattan Theatre Company's production of Theresa Rebeck's Mauritius), Gyllenhaal was characterized by a Riedel operative as "handsome and charming, very compelling in the role" of a political communications director.

Expect to see confirmation of a Broadway appearance shortly to be followed, presumably, by an Ayckbourn meltdown.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 15 June, 2007, Anonymous Esther said...

Wow, first Mamet's November and now a second play about presidential politics. They both sound pretty interesting. With the 2008 campaign season moving into high gear, I'm assuming the timing isn't a coincidence. And by the way, nice rendition of the "Dean scream!"

Personally, I think it's great that actors who've had so much success in films want to come back to the theater. I've enjoyed Jake Gyllenhaal and Annette Bening on screen and I'd be thrilled to see them on stage.

At 17 June, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Esther - Thank goodness you knew what I was going for with the Dean scream. To be honest, it was also a real shout out to the show. I love political theatre, and the premise of this new show certainly appeals to me, especially since I used to work on Capitol Hill and now serve in a communications role.

Of the two actors highlighted, I'm particularly keen to see Annette Bening, who has been a regular stage performer in Los Angeles. But as noted, it's been 20 years since her sole Tony-nominated Broadway gig. It will be wonderful to welcome her back to the Great White Way.

At 21 September, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Post Script (September 21, 2007): Annette Bening has now withdrawn from the production due to "personal reasons."


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