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TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: 2012 Fall Preview, The Plays

September 12th, 2012

Steppenwolf's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?". Photo by Michael Brosilow.

If the fall season’s crop of musicals is a sparse and eccentrically planted lot, the roster of plays is lush with big ideas, big stars and must-see events (if a few too many “didn’t we just see that” revivals). So let’s dig into the harvest feast…

"Grace". Image via O+M Co.

An Enemy of the People (September 27): Henrik Ibsen’s sturdy study of personal pressure and politics kicks things off just in time for election season. Class acts Boyd Gaines and Richard Thomas play brothers, a mayor and a doctor, on opposite sides of an environmental disaster in the making. (Yeah, this was written when?)

Grace (October 4): As I’ve said before…Paul Rudd. I lerve him. Toss in the always magnetic Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road) and my interest is more than peaked for this surreal comedy-drama about a couple’s plans for religious-themed motels and their less than faithful neighbor.

Running on Empty (October 9): Comedian and professional ranter Lewis Black brings his stand-up to Broadway for a week of performances.

Cyrano de Bergerac (October 11): The French war horse (no, not that one) gets trotted out for another display of witty banter, actorly showmanship and much-needed rhinoplasty. Tony-winner Douglas Hodge (La Cage aux Folles) takes on the title role in a Roundabout Theatre revival.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (October 13): The revelatory Steppenwolf production starring playwright (and seriously accomplished actor) Tracy Letts and the incomparable Amy Morton finally makes it to Broadway. Check my review from when I saw it at Arena Stage last year and tell me you aren’t a wee bit excited to see the Albee classic again.

"The Heiress". Image via BBB.

The Heiress (November 1): Hollywood’s newest hope in the Meryl Streep mode, Jessica Chastain (The Help) headlines a revival of the Ruth and Augustus Goetz drama about a plain woman and the gold digger out to win her. The supporting cast is ace (David Strathairn and Downton Abbey heartthrob Dan Stevens) but Chastain will have to surmount two major obstacles:  being plain(!) and memories of Cherry Jones’s transcendent Tony-winning performance in the same role.

Glengarry Glen Ross (November 11): Completing the back-to-back quartet of recently revived but returning anyway classics, Mamet’s masterpiece of real estate office malice is back for one reason and one reason only: Al Pacino. If you know a friend who managed to get tickets to last season’s Death of a Salesman, I suggest you call them now and start bribing.

The Performers (November 14): Cheyenne Jackson as an adult film star named “Mandrew”. Yeah, I didn’t think you’d need anything else.

Katie Holmes. Image via BBB.

Dead Accounts (November 29): A new comedy-drama from Smash creator Theresa Rebeck about family and corporate greed (do we see a trend this year?). Divorcee of the year Katie Holmes stars alongside a deep bench of wonderful actors: Norbert Leo Butz, Jayne Houdyshell, Josh Hamilton and brilliant screen scene stealer Judy Greer.

The Anarchist (December 2): Star-power is clearly the name of the game to sell a play (look back at this list and tell me otherwise). But if needing a marquee name leads to this line-up — Patti LuPone and Debra Winger starring in a new play by David Mamet — well, I can’t complain too much. The accomplished and volatile leading ladies square off in a drama set in a women’s prison. Something tells me it will be nothing like that Charlie’s Angels episode “Angels in Chains”.

Golden Boy (December 6) Lincoln Center’s resident director Bartlett Sher (South Pacific, Awake and Sing) shepherds a revival of Clifford Odets classic about a young violinist turned boxer and the dark side of the American Dream. Expect to be wowed by the size of the cast alone: an “only at Lincoln Center can they do this” 19 member ensemble.

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