'China Doll' With Al Pacino Delays Opening by Two Weeks

Al Pacino

The move allows playwright David Mamet and director Pam MacKinnon to continue making changes to the Broadway premiere, which has generated unfavorable buzz during previews.

Theatergoers waiting to read reviews before investing in tickets to see Al Pacino in the new David Mamet play, China Doll, will have to wait a little longer.

Lead producer and frequent Mamet collaborator Jeffrey Richards announced Monday that the Broadway world-premiere opening has been pushed back two weeks, from its originally scheduled Nov. 19 date to Dec. 4. The choice of a Friday is an unusual move for a Broadway show, given that most producers prefer to avoid having reviews buried in weekend papers.

The delay had been quietly anticipated in theater circles, after Broadway columnist Michael Riedel in The New York Post reported that Pacino was having trouble learning his lines and was relying on teleprompters hidden around the set. Online theater chatrooms have also been abuzz with negative reports on the play, which began previews Oct. 21 and is scheduled to run at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre through Jan. 31.

Director Pam MacKinnon and Mamet now have additional time to fine-tune the material and staging, which also features Christopher Denham in the cast.

The play is a monologue-driven two-hander about a wealthy man who has recently purchased a plane and is looking to start a new life with his young fiancee, until a phone call puts a glitch in his plans.

The delayed opening is a repeat of a similar situation that occurred with the 2012 Broadway revival of Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross, which also starred Pacino and was produced by Richards. That production delayed its official opening by a month, ostensibly due to lost rehearsal days in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. However, theater insiders speculated that the postponement was more about holding off reviews, which were generally lukewarm when the play finally opened on Dec. 8 that year.

Regardless of critical opinion, the revival was a strong seller, becoming the first Broadway play of the 2012-13 season to recoup its investment. The same could not be said, however, for Mamet's last new play to premiere on Broadway, The Anarchist, which bowed the same season as the Glengarry revival to blistering reviews. Another two-hander, in that case starring Patti LuPone and Debra Winger, the play closed after only two weeks.

The troubled preview period of China Doll notwithstanding, the combination of Mamet and Pacino is again proving a potent draw, grossing north of $1 million a week to become the current top-selling play on Broadway.