February 16, 2007
TT: Back in Mint conditionIt’s another off-Broadway week for my Wall Street Journal drama column, in which I review The Madras House and The Last Word…:
Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write: Two of Harley Granville-Barker’s plays are running Off Broadway. To fully appreciate the unlikeliness of that coincidence, you have to know that Granville-Barker, who died in 1946, was a British playwright and director whose once-popular “problem plays” about Edwardian England and its social discontents are mostly long forgotten. “The Madras House,” for instance, was last seen in New York 86 years ago. Now the Mint Theater Company, whose smartly mounted revivals of neglected but worthy plays have put it on the map, has given “The Madras House” a staging of the highest possible quality, and guess what? It’s a terrific play.
The only reason why this doesn’t surprise me is that I’m one of the many New York theatergoers to have been thrilled by the Atlantic Theater Company’s similarly impressive and hugely successful revival of “The Voysey Inheritance,” Granville-Barker’s best-remembered play, which opened in December and has since been extended three times (it closes Mar. 25). “The Madras House,” written in 1909, is another school-of-Shaw play of ideas about a stageful of talkative characters who have come to question the cast-iron moral certitudes of their Victorian forebears. This time around, the parties in question are the well-heeled owners of a family-run department store in London, and the nagging doubts with which they find themselves beset prove to be the stuff of high drama—and much laughter….
Oren Safdie first caught my eye three years ago with “Private Jokes, Public Places,” a bristlingly intelligent, madly funny comedy about the aesthetic follies of celebrity architects (Mr. Safdie is the son of one, Moshe Safdie) that had a memorable downtown run. He then vanished without trace, leaving me to wonder what had become of so promising a debutant. Now I know: Mr. Safdie has been running Malibu Stage Company, a California troupe whose production of his latest play is currently being performed Off Broadway. “The Last Word…” (the ellipsis is Mr. Safdie’s) is a two-man comedy about an uncomfortable encounter between a pair of bad playwrights, one old, blind and grumpy (Daniel J. Travanti) and the other young and painfully earnest (Adam Green). It’s as clever as “Private Jokes, Public Places,” and Messrs. Travanti and Green sail through it with aplomb….
No free link. Go out and buy the Friday Journal, or do as hundreds of thousands of happy readers are doing and go here to subscribe to the Online Journal, which will give you instantaneous access to my column and the rest of our Friday arts package. (If you’re already a subscriber, my column is here.)
Posted February 16, 2007 12:00 PM