Don’t think about it. Just laugh. Abundantly. Terrance McNally (a sort of hit or miss kind of playwright) with patience and persistence, with love, valor and compassion and a wicked wit has penned a farce (not altogether perfect) in the mode of Moliere and Kaufman and Hart – starring six – count them – over the title stars and introducing newcomer Micah Stock – making a dashing Broadway debut as Gus – the naïve, pigeon toed and pouty just off the bus would be actor and coat checker – for the post opening night party of THE GOLDEN EGG – after recently appearing in McNally’s Off-Broadway’s valentine to the theatre AND AWAY WE GO.
Lucky for him this 1978 show that closed out of town and then made it to Off Off Broadway in 1982 (briefly) and then made it to Off Broadway in 1986 (briefly) has been given a new life with updates to the many scathing comments about show biz folk that make for most of the merriment at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre where it is enjoying a mostly sold out limited engagement starring the very profitable combination of Nathan Lane (excellent) and Matthew Broderick (dull).
Directed with a foot heavy on the gas pedal, by Jack O’Brien IT’S ONLY A PLAY plays it for laughs which flow across the footlights from the sumptuous deco inspired bedroom (Scott Pask) of first time solo producer Julia Budder (Megan Mullally) rich but vacuous who knows more about shoes than producing.
It is here that Gus brings the overflow of coats from the downstairs party. Sight gags to accompany the written gags about such luminaries as Tommy Tune, Daniel Radcliff and Lady Gaga. There is a blizzard going on outside but nary a snowflake is seen on any of the coats that are not even damp…
What is more important is the storm brewing inside as they all anxiously await the most important New York Times review of the play written by Peter Austin (Matthew Broderick) that was turned down by his best friend James Wicker (Nathan Lane) who is starring in a TV show as has flown in for the opening. We never meet who replaced him…a case of the new leading man gone missing.
Gathered together are the star of the show – Virginia Noyes (Stockard Channing) – a bit past her prime but still attractive drug addict with an ankle alarm attached to her by her parole officer – Frank Finger (Rupert Grant) the over the top British wunderkind director and critic and closet playwright Ira Drew (a very funny F. Murray Abraham) and an off stage dog.
The funniest of the jokes deal with the names of James Wicker, Harvey Fierstein and Nathan Lane. Set up beautifully they really pay off big.
What doesn’t really pay off are the monotone monologues delivered by an almost comatose Matthew Broderick about the state of the theatre, critics, unions and the usual soap box rhetoric that Mr. McNally feels that he needs to include.
The “review” arriving at the end of Act I is read in full hilarity in Act II which is funnier than Act I.
Martin Short replaces Mr. Lane starting January 7th 2015. Katie Finneran replaces Megan Mullally and Maulik Pancholy replaces Rupert Grint as well. Break a leg kids!
Photos: Joan Marcus
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