Commentary: Jeremy Piven, 'Equus' and John Dean

News and notes from Broadway

This week on the Broadway docket: It's Jeremy Piven, joined by Elizabeth Moss ("Mad Men") and Raul Esparza in a new revival of "Speed-the-Plow," the David Mamet play that in 1988 had us shoe-horning into the Royale theater to have a look at Madonna being legitimate. (It was, however, her co-stars Ron Silver and the man who always does Mamet best, Joe Mantegna, who kept us riveted.) This time, the show's at the Barrymore, with Neil Pepe directing (Gregory Mosher guided the original), and it opens Wednesday.

The next big Main Stem bow occurs Nov. 13 with the prevuing "Billy Elliot: The Musical" at the Imperial. Two other plays begin prevue in the next 11 days. First up, it's Horton Foote's comedy "Dividing the Estate" with Elizabeth Ashley, Penny Fuller, Hallie Foote and Gerald McRaney, which begins prevuing Wednesday at the Booth. The other is another sharp-edged Mamet play, this one a new production of his 1975 "American Buffalo" with John Leguizamo and Haley Joel Osment, directed by Robert Falls; that revs up Oct. 31 at the Belasco.

RADCLIFFE RIDES AGAIN

There's so much focus and publicity about Daniel Radcliffe's willie in the revival of Peter Shaffer's "Equus" at the Broadhurst, it woefully overshadows the fact that Radcliffe gives an amazing performance for someone who's never been on a stage before, save his West End warm-up in the show last year in London.

There's also co-star Richard Griffiths, who is a stunning actor but because of his bulky size is not ideal casting as a man wondering why his sexual life at home has gone phffft! Radcliffe's time in the buff is neither noteworthy nor provocative as staged by Thea Sharrock, but sensuality abounds when boy meets horse for a hug. However, Kate Mulgrew, playing a role Marian Seldes made so memorable in the original 1973 production, seems to be in another play altogether. In the end, "Equus," now 35 years old, no longer shocks but does constitute a smart move on the part of its 19-year-old star. No one who sees it will ever think of Radcliffe as strictly a movie guy.

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S COMMENTARIES

I try to keep my Turner Classic Movies connection out of these columns, cross-pollination not being a ploy I appreciate in others, but I did have an intriguing experience this week I'd like to share.

John Dean, one of the primary names connected to the Watergate scandal in the days before politics became the benevolent, good-natured and well-meaning arena it is today, joined me to tape the co-hosting of a movie TCM will air Nov. 2. He agreed to do it because the film is one of his favorites. Sitting down? It's "All the President's Men," the 1976 thriller about Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) investigating the very scandal that put Dean in the hot seat as Nixon's White House counsel, after which Dean was charged with obstruction of justice, followed by four months in lock-up.

Dean said he's been a fan of the film since he first saw it at a private screening with the director, Alan J. Pakula. He found it then, and still does, a first-rate thriller and afterward thanked Pakula "because I wasn't in it as a character or even referenced." He said, "When I mentioned that to Pakula, he seemed shocked. He said, 'You're not in it? How can it be?' and I said, 'You tell me. But thank you.' " ... I asked Dean about his gut feelings at the time the Bernstein-Woodward articles about the Watergate break-in were initially published. "None of us was too concerned," he says. "It was only in the Washington Post. The New York Times and other papers weren't picking it up or paying much attention. We figured it would die out and go away. But Woodward and Bernstein were tenacious. They deserved their Pulitzer Prize, not because of what they uncovered, because a great deal of the information they did come up with really wasn't accurate.

But they wouldn't give up and kept the story alive until it did catch fire." After that, his main concern "was not being made the scapegoat for the break-in, which seemed to be happening." Did he ever suspect the FBI's Mark Felt was the real Deep Throat? "Never. I had my own theories, but I never suspected Felt. I ruled him out early on because Deep Throat was still giving information to Bernstein and Woodward after Felt had left the FBI and wouldn't have had access to information. But it's a fact that much of the information Felt gave as Deep Throat wasn't accurate."

Any lesson we can learn from Watergate and/or "All the President's Men"? "Absolutely," Dean says. "The lesson is how important investigative journalism is and how close we are to losing it now with newspapers getting smaller and cutting staffs." Fascinating guy, Mr. Dean. He'd also like put to rest the rumor that a Dean biopic is in the works with Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow involved. "Pure myth," he says. "If it is in the works, no one has said a word to me or my wife about it."

Robert Osborne is the primetime host and anchor of Turner Classic Movies.
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