The New York Shakespeare Exchange completed its run last weekend of Shakespeare’s early tragedy “Titus Andronicus.” This well reviewed production was marred only by a unnecessary prologue. Featuring Brendan Averett in the title role, this production featured an all-too-welcome clarity, both in speech and intent.
The Gershwins’ (George and Ira) comedy “Lady, Be Good” proved to be a most enjoyable “throwback” evening of musical comedy (definitely NOT musical theater) which featured a knock out performance by the legendary Tommy Tune (nine Tony awards!) to “Fascinating Rhythm.” Clear elegant and well suited to the Encores! crowd.
On a different plane altogether was the Robert Falls directed Goodman Theatre production of “The Iceman Cometh,” currently at the BAM Harvey Theatre. This majestic revival of one of Eugene O’Neill’s finest works limns a portrait of disillusionment that features an energetic and touching Nathan Lane in the role of Hickey and a powerful, seething presence in Brian Dennehy’s portrayal of former anarchist Larry Slade. At just under five hours in length with three intermissions, this play never fails to engage me. I’ve seen Jason Robards, Jr. play Hickey as well as James Earl Jones back in the seventies at a Circle-in-the-Square revival, as well as a production at the Arena Stage in D.C. back in the late sixties. Lacerating, unforgiving, and determined to unsettle, this is an example of must-see theater.
Valentine’s weekend saw me at the first major New York revival of Clifford Odets’ “Rocket to the Moon.” Still in previews, the Peccadillo Theater Company’s production of this ultimately problematic play features an outstanding cast of New York actors, highlighted by Lou Liberatore’s as Willy Wax, Jonathan Hadary as Mr. Prince and the always fascinating Ned Eisenberg as the troubled protagonist, Ben Stark, a Manhattan dentist, seemingly trapped by his own indecision. The decidedly ambiguous end – will Ben make the vital changes to his life he needs to make or won’t he – differs from other works in the politically charged Odets canon. With a nod to Ben Stark’s love of Shakespeare, this play follows the party line on the character of Hamlet as observed in the 30’s and 40’s – will he make up his mind about moving on in life or will he remain a vacillating figure?