As leaves fall, there's lots to look forward to
Tonight, it's Chita Rivera making a cabaret return to Feinstein's at the Regency, this time for a three-week run through Nov. 24. Also tonight, there's the world premiere at the Public Theatre of Tarell Alvin McCraney's "The Brothers Size." … Wednesday brings three off-Broadway openings: The Writers' Theatre production of Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment" at the 59E59 theaters; the Pan Asian Repertory Company's first play of its 31st season, an adaptation of Amy Tan's "The Joy Luck Club," at the Julia Miles Theatre; and the world premiere of the New Group's "Things We Want," by Jonathan Marc Sherman, with the added clout of direction by Ethan Hawke and a cast that includes Paul Dano (Daniel Day-Lewis' co-star in the upcoming "There Will Be Blood"), Peter Dinklage ("The Station Agent"), Josh Hamilton and Zoe Kazan. … And taking a brief timeout on the subject of Hawke: The new Sidney Lumet-directed "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," in which Hawke co-stars with Philip Seymour Hoffman, seems a cinch for one of the five spots on Oscar's next best picture list. Competition for a spot in that most sought-after of all Oscar categories seems more potent than usual at this point, with such films as "Lions for Lambs" and "No Country for Old Men" already showing the kind of muscle and response that ultimately earn Academy Award attention — but none more so than the Lumet dazzler. "Devil" grabs you from the opening scene (which happens to involve Hoffman behaving as unlike Truman Capote as one could ever imagine) to the final fade, never losing momentum for a moment. Watching it is, in fact, like being trapped in an out-of-control locomotive. If it's not Lumet's best film, "Devil" certainly is right up there with such knockouts as "12 Angry Men," "The Pawnbroker," "Serpico," "Dog Day Afternoon," "Network" and "The Verdict." In the acting department, Hawke and Hoffman are superb as ill-fated brothers who find themselves at the center of a disaster of their own making; Albert Finney and Rosemary Harris also are first-rate as their parents who discover — too late — that they should have practiced birth control. Don't let anyone ruin this one for you by spilling too much of the plot; the continual surprises are among the film's many virtues. … On Thursday, the theater-scene attention goes back to Broadway with — at long last and with its hefty ticket price — Mel Brooks' musicalized "Young Frankenstein" making its official debut at the Hilton on West 42nd; that same night, the newly discovered play "Is He Dead?" written in 1898 by Mark Twain and adapted by David Ives, begins prevuing at the Lyceum, starring Tony winner Norbert Leo Butz (who won for "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels"). Michael Blakemore directs. … Friday signals the start of the second annual Broadway visit of "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas," this year at the St. James for nine weeks with Patrick Page as the Grinch. … It won't be exactly idle through next weekend, either. On Sunday, there will be two off-Broadway openings of more than routine interest: Kathleen Chalfant ("Wit") starring in the New York premiere of Howard Barker's play "A Hard Heart," presented by the Epic Theatre Ensemble at the O&M Company on West 39th, and last but by no means least, Bill Pullman in Edward Albee's new play, "Peter and Jerry," at the Second Stage, directed by Pam MacKinnon and also with Dallas Roberts and Johanna Day.