Magazine article Variety

Reviews Will Be Kind for Nasty 'Play'

Magazine article Variety

Reviews Will Be Kind for Nasty 'Play'

Article excerpt

Reviews Will Be Kind for Nasty 'Play'

Its Only a Play

Gerald Schoenfeld Theater; 1085 seats; $167 top

Director: Jack O'Brien

Starring: Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane

Nobody does mean-nasty-vicious like Terrence McNally, bless his black heart. The pitiless playwright has exhumed "It's Only a Play," his 1986 love-hate letter to those big babies who work and play on Broadway, and updated it for today - and for the timely if schmaltzy reunion of Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. The comedy's slight plot, about the high drama (and low comedy) of the opening night of a new Broadway show, is still a trifle. But the well-aimed and highly personal zingers are more malicious, and delicious, this time out.

The setup for this showbiz comedy is perfect: While a raucous opening-night party rages downstairs, the producer, playwright, director and star of a new Broadway show, "The Golden Egg," along with friends and foes, are huddled upstairs in the producer's townhouse, jumping out of their skins as they wait for critical word. McNally captures that neardeath experience with a barrage of the anxiety-ridden jokes that Broadway wags crack to keep the dark away.

The stakes are certainly high for the playwright, Peter Austin (Broderick), whose professional career is on the line. Peter is a stagestruck naif who can't quite believe his luck to work in the most wonderful profession in the world. Broderick plays to that childlike sense of wonder, as well as to the unspoken but underlying terror that his good luck is about to be snatched from him.

The most conflicted person in the room is the scribe's once-best friend and collaborator, James Wicker (Lane), a TV sitcom star who turned down the male lead in Peter's play and now wonders if he's going to regret that decision. For the sake of their old friendship, James would kinda-sorta like the play to be a hit. But far better it should be a flop, so he won't have to kick himself for turning it down. It's a joy to watch Lane savor every drop of McNally's venomous humor.

Devoted fans of this "Odd Couple," who wish that every season produced a new show like "The Producers," made "Play" a hit before it officially opened. …

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