What's Brewing on Broadway

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Emma Stone hands you cookies.  She baked them for you herself.  You are overjoyed.  You taste them.  Your gag reflex has a hernia.  You have two choices: upchuck or smile and swallow.  Remember, you would not be insulting an average chef; Emma Stone is the cook. Last summer, Elle interviewed Emma Stone and showcased her on the cover; the interview took place in Stone’s kitchen as she baked.  The reporter described Emma’s habit of baking as a way to cope with nervous energyStone said, “You know, if you put in the same amount of whatever is in the recipe, it will come out all right.”

It’s not true.  If you use as much flour as sugar and oil in your chocolate chip cookies, you might as well develop a taste for puppy chow or baby food. Ingredients make you appreciate the art of the dessert so much more.  It’s the same with theater; plays are so much more appreciated when the history of the directors, writers and actors is known.  Here’s a list of little-known Broadway plays that are sure to whet your appetite when you see what they're made of.

Harvey:  This Pulitzer Prize winning has-been by Mary Chase deserves a reunion with Broadway.  Harvey is perfect for our society; it’s an intense psychoanalysis of a man who prefers dreams to reality.  When Elwood P. Dowd (think Jimmy Stewart in all his innocence) introduces his imaginary friend, a six-foot tall white rabbit, to everyone he meets, will his embarrassed family disown him?  Jim Parsons, or “Sheldon Cooper” on “The Big Band Theory,” will play Elwood in Harvey this time.  This is a clue that the style of the production will be unconventional.   While Harvey is traditionally played with a magical, enchanting tone, 2012 may reveal a dark, spellbinding version.  Harvey opens June 14 at Studio 54, but for those leaving the city this summer, the preview is May 18.

The Best Man:  Calling all PPE majors!  James Earl Jones stars in this scheming drama in which two presidential candidates duke it out in the primary. Jones received the 2012 Honorary Oscar, making him a priority to see. A lesser-known achievement: Jones played “Mufasa” in The Lion King and is the voice of Darth Vader. Lansbury played “Mrs. Potts” in Beauty and the Beast.  It will be interesting to see if their voices are the most expressive part of their acting and if they react strongly to unpredicted vocal tones.  The Best Man opens April 1 and is playing at the Schoenfeld Theater.

The Columnist:  If you don’t dabble in the success of current playwrights, you should at least know about David Auburn.  He studied under Christopher Durang, a playwright of our fathers’ generation, known for his dark, dysfunctional parodies of greats like Hemingway at the University of Chicago.   Realism grounds Auburn’s stories, while Durang is an absurdist. Auburn’s play, Proof won the Tony for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize.  Because of Durang, the relation between intelligence and depression is a trend in Auburn’s stories.  Proof is even about a woman who deals with her father’s insanity and also with intelligence.  His newest work, The Columnist follows a brilliant columnist (played by John Lithgow) who cannot separate the political conflicts he writes about from his own life.   The Columnist opens April 25th at the Samuel J. Friedman theater.

Death of a Salesman:  Pulling off Arthur Miller’s classic depends solely on the artists behind it.  Willy Loman must be a man who seems incognito, who cannot be pegged as a friend or a foe.  Likewise, his antithesis character Biff Loman must be a picture of quintessential teenage rebellion with an undeniable voice of truth.  The audience must agonize over who to cheer for, Willy or Biff.  Philip Seymour Hoffman, Andrew Garfield, and Mike Nichols are just the artists to render this type of imbalance to an audience. Hoffman’s unforgettable performance as plausibly guilty or innocent minister in Doubt is fitting experience to play Willy.  Garfield’s involvement in The Social Network proves he understands the restless young mind of Biff.  Finally, Nichols directed The Graduate, which is about a college graduate oppressed by the illusion his parents create of him.  Death of a Salesman opens Mar. 15 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.

Finally, a few plays are must-sees simply because of their cast members.  First, Bebe Neuwerth and Christina Ricci will reunite after their haunting familial chemistry in The Addams Family (the film) to star in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Second, Norbert Leo Butz, who most remember as the original Fiyero in Wicked, has an outstanding Broadway resume.  He won three Tony Awards, two for Best Actor in a Leading Role.  He will be starring in  How I Learned to Drive.  And finally, ladies, our dream has come true.  We will win our date with Tad Hamilton, but then we will fall for Topher Grace in Lonely, I’m Not.

Click here for more information on the final three plays.

CultureKatie Hay