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The Two Faces of Housman

If you've yet to catch this year's Tony Award winning performances in straight dramas, you'd better be quick about it. logo

Robert Sean Leonard and Richard Easton
(Photo: Michael Portantiere)

David Auburn's Proof, this year's Tony-winning Best Play, is about the only proof we have that a straight drama can still make it on Broadway. Mary-Louise Parker, the show's principal calling-card and winner of the 2001 Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play, will labor till at least Labor Day in the show--but the other three actors who took Tonys for non-musical work this season are calling it a run this week. Best Featured Actress Viola Davis will rant her last on Sunday when August Wilson's King Hedley II ends its 72-performance reign at the Virginia; and when Tom Stoppard's The Invention of Love closes on Saturday at the Lyceum after 139 performances, it will take with it not only the year's Best Actor (Richard Easton) but also the year's Best Featured Actor (Robert Sean Leonard).

Therein hangs an interesting little coincidence: Easton and Leonard are the first people to win Tonys for playing the same character: the old and the young A.E. Housman, the Oxford don. As it happens, an Italian don--one Vito Corleone--is the only old-and-young character to win Oscars for two different actors: Marlon Brando in The

Marlon Brando and Robert DeNiro in The Score
(Photo: Phillip V. Caruso/SMPSP)
Godfather (1972) and Robert De Niro in The Godfather Part II (1974). Brando and De Niro never did a scene together--until The Score, a film that goes into national release on July 13. (It's really something to see these two working with each other.)

As for Easton and Leonard, you'll find them back on Broadway--together again!--come February in the first Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams' Camino Real, produced by Fred Zollo and Elizabeth I. McCann and directed by Nicholas Martin. Last year's Copenhagen Tony winner, Blair Brown, will co-star. Repeating the leads they played two years ago at the Williamstown Theatre Festival will be Ethan Hawke and Hope Davis.



Mrs. Ethan Hawke, i.e., Uma Thurman, who made her Off-Broadway debut a few years back in Moliere's The Misanthrope, is still shopping around for her second stage vehicle. In her quest, she happened to catch a Laura Cahill play called Hysterical Blindness that starred Jill Larson, Amy Ryan and Jenny Robertson, and darned if she didn't buy it "with my own money" and develop it with the author from draft to draft into a script that HBO snapped up. Gena Rowlands and Juliette Lewis will co-star with producer Thurman in this "woman's piece" about a mother and daughter and the mother's best friend, who's also a single mom--"All Jersey girls basically, coming to terms with their lives," says Thurman. "It's a very lifelike, humorous, and heartbreaking comedy. To me, it's about a couple of barfly girls who turn 30 and feel the pressure to get married--but the fruits have fallen off the tree, and all they can do is pull guys home on Saturday night."

Now, if you can stand a bit of gossip that is only tenuously theater-related: Thurman was recently seen on screen in The Golden Bowl, a stately Merchant-Ivory version of a Henry James novel. Married to Nick Nolte in the movie, her character seduced his aristocratic son-in-law (Jeremy Northam), thereby betraying her stepdaughter (Kate Beckinsale). Well, during filming, The Golden Bowl was known as The Golden Brawl. It seems that tension developed between Northam and Beckinsale; at one point, he went so ballistic that he reduced her to tears, prompting her real-life husband--actor Michael Sheen, whom Broadwayites will remember as Amadeus in last year's revival of that historical drama--to punch out Northam. According to director James Ivory, the actor stormed off the set and threatened to quit the picture, but came to his senses later. "I don't think that kind of tension leads to an effective portrayal of intimacy," comments Ivory, who altered the ending of the book to focus on the Nolte-Thurman relationship instead of fading out on a Northam-Beckinsale clinch.


Jason Graae

The ever-gracious Jason Graae was ringside this past Monday for one of Jim Caruso's show's at Arci's Place. (J.C. is his delightfully loony self here, by the by. His Dick Van Dyke medley? Mad, wonderfully mad). The California-based Graae was bound for Washington for a P.G. Wodehouse concert at the Library of Congress, then off to London to do some Jerome Kern recordings for conductor-arranger John McGlinn. "This all came about," says Graae, "because David Packer, a huge musical-comedy fan, heard what John did with Kern's Sitting Pretty. He called him up and said, 'I want you to record everything Jerome Kern ever wrote.' Leave It to Jane and Have a Heart are the two I'm doing. Oh, Boy! comes after that." McGlinn hopes to corral the same cast who did Leave It to Jane at Town Hall 15 years ago. Among the performers: Rebecca Luker, Michael Maguire, Judy Kaye, Ron Raines, Alix Korey, and Cris Groenendaal.



Acclaimed costume designer Jane Greenwood has retreated to her summer home in the south of France for two months, sketchbook in tow, to prepare two upcoming productions for director Mark Lamos: Othello at the Public this fall with Keith David (about time!), and Antony and Cleopatra at Minneapolis' Guthrie this winter with Laila Robins.



At midday on Thursday, June 28, Bernadette Peters and Mary Cleere Haran will raise their lovely voices in Richard Rodgers song at The Richard Rodgers Theatre as part of a special program during which all kinds of plans for the centennial celebration of the composer will be announced. Be there, or you won't know Dick....In January, the York Theatre Company will mark this centenary with an all-Rodgers season of Musicals in Mufti. There will be Rodgers with Lorenz Hart (the mind boggles as to which show might be chosen), Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II (probably Pipe Dream or Me and Juliet), and a Rodgers/Rodgers show (there was only one: No Strings)....Lynn Riggs, whose Green Grow the Lilacs got Rodgers and Hammerstein rolling with Away We Go (retitled Oklahoma! before its Broadway opening), wrote the play that Fantasticks duo Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt have musicalized for the York's seasonal curtain-raiser, Roadside. This will be followed by Johnny Mercer and Andre Previn's The Good Companions, directed by Susan Schulman.... I guess you saw how the New York Post's Page Six had to eat its words after printing that the R&H folks were unhappy about Susan Stroman repeating her London choreography of Oklahoma! for the upcoming Broadway transfer? In point of fact, sez Stro, "Rodgers and Hammerstein allowed me to change all the dance arrangements. So, when you see the choreography, it's all fresh music that matches the staging. This is a new, grittier Oklahoma! It won't be like anything you've ever seen before."

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