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Where have all the new plays gone?
On Broadway this fall, it will be a lonely pair — “To Be or Not to Be” and “Dividing the Estate” — that will qualify as new works in a season studded with starry revivals such as “Equus” and “All My Sons.”
Quite a change from last year, where the fall had plays by Tracy Letts, Tom Stoppard, Conor McPherson, Aaron Sorkin and even Mark Twain (well, adapted by David Ives) on tap. And David Mamet showed up with a new one, too — in January.
“Broadway has been fairly unfriendly to the new play for a while,” said Daniel Sullivan, acting artistic director last season for Manhattan Theatre Club, which will produce “To Be or Not to Be.” When you are talking between $2 million and $3 million, just to put on a five- or six-character play on Broadway, you can’t blame producers for being shy.”
No wonder both “To Be or Not to Be” and “Estate” are being produced by nonprofit, noncommercial theaters.
“To Be or Not to Be” is a familiar title — at least to movie buffs. It’s a stage adaptation by Nick Whitby of the 1942 film comedy starring Jack Benny and Carole Lombard about the tribulations of a theater troupe in Warsaw trying to open a play as the Nazis invade Poland. It was remade in the 1980s, with Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft in leading roles.
The comedy, directed by Casey Nicholaw of “The Drowsy Chaperone” fame, opens Oct. 2 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre (formerly the Biltmore). Heading the large cast are David Rasche and Jan Maxwell.
“Estate” by Horton Foote arrives after a successful off-Broadway run last season. The play, a revised version of a work the 92-year-old Foote wrote nearly two decades ago, concerns a Texas family’s squabble over an inheritance.
The comedy will open Nov. 20 at the Booth Theatre with its off-Broadway cast including Elizabeth Ashley, Arthur French, Hallie Foote, Penny Fuller and Gerald McRaney.
Elsewhere on Broadway, it’s big names in old plays.
The parade starts with “Equus,” a revival of Peter Shaffer’s psychological drama featuring Daniel Radcliffe of “Harry Potter” fame. It opens Sept. 25 at the Broadhurst Theatre.
A lot more will be revealed, too, because Radcliffe also strips to the skin in what is Broadway’s most anticipated nude scene since Kathleen Turner briefly doffed her clothes in the stage version of “The Graduate.”
Nobody takes their clothes off in Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull” (as far we know), the master’s wryly melancholic tale of unhappy aristocrats in late 19th century Russia. Kristin Scott Thomas stars in the production that begins Oct. 1 at the Walter Kerr Theatre.
Robert Bolt’s “A Man for All Seasons,” starring Frank Langella, opens Oct. 7 at the American Airlines Theatre.
Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” gets another airing starting Oct. 16 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre with a cast that includes John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, Patrick Wilson and Katie Holmes.
Theatergoers will also be treated to a battle between two Mamet revivals — each showcasing offbeat casts.
In one corner, we have “Speed-The-Plow,” Mamet’s cynical look at Hollywood glamour, sex and power, featuring Jeremy Piven, Raul Esparza and Elisabeth Moss. Look for it Oct. 23 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.
In the other corner, John Leguizamo, Cedric the Entertainer and Haley Joel Osment star in the Chicago robbery caper “American Buffalo.” The opening is Nov. 17 at the Belasco.
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