NEW YORK — There’s nothing like a public spat to liven up Tony Awards season on Broadway.
An ad in The New York Times Saturday Arts section theater listings for The Testament of Mary states “Last 3 Perfs.” It also carries the following unusual quote from producer Scott Rudin: “Let’s give a big cuddly shout-out to Pat Healy, infant provocateur and amateur journalist at The New York Times. Keep it up, Pat — one day perhaps you’ll learn something about how Broadway works, and maybe even understand it.”
The quote is a direct response to the Times theater reporter Patrick Healy‘s Q&A that ran on Wednesday, May 1 with Irish author and playwright Colm Toibin, who wrote Testament as both a critically lauded novella and a theatrical monologue.
The stage production, starring Fiona Shaw and directed by Deborah Warner, was nominated Tuesday for three Tony Awards, including best play. However, later that same day, a statement was released announcing that it would close Sunday.
While reviews had been respectful, and in some cases, glowing, slow ticket sales and the crowded end-of-season Broadway marketplace prompted the show’s producing team, which is led by Rudin, to cut their losses. The play had been scheduled to run through June 16. The failure of both Shaw and Warner to land Tony nominations may have been another factor in the decision to close early rather than play to half-empty houses.
Toibin remains diplomatic in Healy’s post-mortem on the closing notice. The Times journalist couches the report as a narrative in which news of the play’s Tony nominations (it also was recognized for lighting design and sound) was followed shortly after by a phone call (“I have Scott Rudin on the line for you”), informing the playwright that the final curtain would come down on the show at the end of the week.
However, it appears from Rudin’s Times ad that he may have felt the reporter was attempting to bait Toibin with questions such as, “Scott Rudin is one of the most successful and strong-minded producers on Broadway. What was working with him like?” and “Did you two get along well, even when he told you that the play would close?”
“The amount of care and work he did was extraordinary,” said Toibin of Rudin in the interview, describing him as an excellent producer. “I really trust his judgment. If he was calling to say that this was the decision he’d come to, then in my view the finances of the show – whether it could run an extra week or not – is of no concern to me.”
While Rudin and his fellow investors will take a hit on the short-lived production, his recent string of Tony-winning successes on Broadway — including The Book of Mormon, the Mike Nichols-directed revival of Death of a Salesman, and Fences, starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis — makes it unlikely that he will abandon his commitment to theater projects anytime soon.
Healy declined to comment Saturday about Rudin’s ad.
Editor’s note: the author has contributed to the New York Times.