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Tom Stoppard’s “Travesties,” in which James Joyce, Vladimir Lenin and Tristan Tzara, Dada’s founding father, share a stage to lunatic effect, was the unlikeliest Broadway semi-hit of 1975 (it ran for 156 much-discussed performances). Some theatergoers found “Travesties” impenetrably complex, but everybody had an opinion about it, and Mr. Stoppard was thereafter viewed on this side of the Atlantic as a man of consequence. Now he’s the greatest living English-speaking playwright, more or less, and “Travesties” is back on Broadway at last…
I couldn’t begin to summarize “Travesties” accurately in a review three times as long as this one. I’ll say only that it’s a whirligig variation on “The Importance of Being Earnest” in which Mr. Stoppard, having taken note of the unlikely but true fact that Messrs. Joyce, Lenin and Tzara (played here by Peter McDonald, Dan Butler, and Seth Numrich) were all in Zurich in 1917, uses that coincidence as the point of departure for a farce-flavored fantasy….
In addition to the Broadway transfer of the original Royal Shakespeare Theatre production, I’ve seen “Travesties” done twice, by New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre in 2005 and Wisconsin’s American Players Theatre in 2014. All of those productions were extraordinarily fine, and so is this one, in which Tom Hollander is sensational as Henry Carr, the now-senile British diplomat in whose fast-disintegrating memory the events of “Travesties” take place…
Rarely has a show been less in need of good reviews, from me or anyone else, than “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” the latest line extension of J.K. Rowling’s franchise of novels, films and theme parks, which has come to New York after a stupendously successful 2016 opening in London. This two-part, five-hour extravaganza is the most expensive non-musical production ever to open on Broadway, and every dollar of the $68.5 million ponied up by the producers is visible. The special effects are sensational, especially if you like theatrical “black magic,” and each one was dutifully applauded by the audiences at the previews I saw.
Beyond that, I can do no more than to warn those who care that “The Cursed Child” plays like a musical—most of the show is underscored and all of the putative song cues are self-evident—and might have been slightly more fun had it been one….
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To read my review of Travesties, go here.
To read my review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, go here.
A montage of scenes from Travesties: