Broadway leaps into spring
Some big-name actors return to the stage and stir up the classics.
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After the glossy HBO miniseries “Elizabeth I” and Cate Blanchett’stwo big-screen forays, do audiences really need to see anymore of thesavvy, strong, indecisive, and confounding Virgin Queen? Well, if it’sFriedrich Schiller’s “Mary Stuart,” then that’s a resounding yes. Threeyears ago, the German playwright was suddenly a hot property inLondon’s West End, with his “Don Carlos” and then “Mary Stuart”gripping audiences in quick succession. Now the acclaimed DonmarWarehouse production of Schiller’s classic, written in 1800, about thepolitical machinations between Queen Elizabeth and her cousin MaryQueen of Scots is making its way to Broadway. In the new versionadapted by Peter Oswald, director Phyllida Lloyd dresses the duo inperiod costumes, while the male courtiers don modern clothing,underlining the women’s isolation in a patriarchal society. The playculminates in a famously fictional scene in which the two bitter rivalsmeet at Fotheringay Castle, where Mary is imprisoned. While thisencounter never took place (in fact, the two never met), it highlightsthe ways in which the women are walled in, victims of their dynasticancestry and political gamesmanship in a world dominated by men. JanetMcTeer and Harriet Walter reprise their breathlessly praisedperformances from the London engagement. (Previews begin March 30;opens April 19.)
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Christopher Hampton, the playwright renowned for his savage stageand screen adaptations of “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” has trafficked inhigh-gloss film adaptations such as “Atonement” in recent years. Sosometimes it’s good to be reminded what an incisive and probing writerthe underappreciated Hampton remains. Thanks to the forthcomingRoundabout Theatre revival of his 1970 play, “The Philanthropist”(which he wrote at the age of 24), New York audiences will get amuch-needed refresher course. Written as an inverted response toMolière’s classic “The Misanthrope,” Hampton’s barbed comedy skewersthe pretentious, insular world of academia. The play stars MatthewBroderick as a professor who seems almost absurdly removed from thepolitical turmoil in the world around him, including the assassinationof the country’s prime minister and his cabinet. Broderick has madesomething of a career playing nice guys tired of being walked all over.But unlike his naive accountant-turned-reluctant con artist Leo Bloomin “The Producers,” Broderick’s character in “The Philanthropist” hasno critical faculties, not even “the courage of my lack ofconvictions.” He is so agreeable, in fact, he will go to bed with awoman he doesn’t like simply because he is afraid of hurting herfeelings. “You are so incredibly bland, you just sit there likepudding, wobbling gently,” snaps his fiancée. Even Leo Bloom wouldn’ttake that standing up. (Previews begin April 10; opens April 26.)