Time again for my Wall Street Journal drama column. The Broadway previews are coming hot and heavy this month and next, and today I wrote about three high-profile shows, none of which knocked me out, though my unenthusiastic review of Democracy cut sharply and (for me, anyway) unexpectedly against the conventional wisdom:
Once or twice a season, Broadway makes room for a play, usually an import, that gets tagged by the press as egghead-friendly. Last spring it was “Jumpers,” and now it’s Michael Frayn’s “Democracy,” which opened last night at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. A huge hit in London, “Democracy” has been transplanted to New York in Michael Blakemore’s original National Theatre production, but with a new, all-American cast led by James Naughton and Richard Thomas. It is, as advertised, smart and thoughtful, and if good intentions counted for anything in the theater, “Democracy” would be a great play. But they don’t, and it isn’t.
Like Mr. Frayn’s “Copenhagen,” “Democracy” is a fictionalized docudrama. It tells how Willy Brandt (Mr. Naughton), the first left-wing chancellor of West Germany, was forced out of office when it was disclosed that G