By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
They did not hire Paul Rudnick to write the screenplay for World Trade Center. If you don't know why that statement is funny, you obviously haven't been going to the right theaters in recent years. Rudnick is a playwright (and occasional screenwriter) whose scripts have caused so much laughter in New York audiences that the mere mention of an upcoming Rudnick work induces the same anticipatory salivation in theatergoers that Pavlov's bell provoked in his lab dogs. The author of Jeffrey, I Hate Hamlet, The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, Valhalla, and the immortal one-act Mr. Charles, Currently of Palm Beach, as well as such fondly remembered movies as In & Out, Rudnick has long since proven his credentials in the laff-o-meter department. Devoid of shame and apparently the proud owner of a golden goose that supplies fresh epigrams every morning, he can put a comic spin on any topic from AIDS benefits to transgressive artists, or any cultural icon from the Old Testament to Mad King Ludwig's Neuschwanstein.
In his latest work, Regrets Only, which blooms at Manhattan Theatre Club's Off-Broadway space October 19, Rudnick's nominal topic is a Park Avenue wedding. Among those involved are a power-driven attorney, his "deliriously social" wife, the high-powered fashion designer who's their best friend, and a variety of other optimally Rudnickian targets, up to and including the president of the United States. No doubt Rudnick will have something devastating to say about matters weightier than engagement party etiquette and bridesmaids' corsages.
Directed by longtime Rudnick collaborator Christopher Ashley, Regrets Only has sent off additional good vibes by attracting the kind of class-act comic performers for whom Rudnick's material often acts like a magnet. Elegant epigram spinner Christine Baranski heads the company, waving alongside her such star-power figures as George Grizzard, David Rasche, and Britain's Siân Phillips. But it would hardly be a Rudnick cast without somebody whose outrageous presence could put a rumple in all that tuxedoed, begowned chic, and this one boasts an ICBM-level explosive in the form of Jackie Hoffman, downtown's favorite monument to anti-chic, from whom one wisecrack could turn a society wedding into a trailer park free-for-all faster than you can say "thrift shop."
When Baranski's infrangible poise confronts Hoffman's down-and-dirty hauteur, what will happen to Rudnick's wry, tinselly world? Forget about remaking Clash of the Titans. This fall, you may find yourself flocking to its ultimate update, in a basement on West 55th Street.
Previews begin Sept 6, opens Sept 17, through Oct 15
His Hamlet was both emotive and articulate; now it's time to see what tall, commanding Obie winner Michael Cumpsty can do with the most poetically vulnerable of Shakespeare's defeated kings. As with Hamlet, artistic director Brian Kulick guides the Classic Stage Company's production. Classic Stage Company, 136 E 13th, 212-352-3101 Feingold
Aeschylus's Persians(480 B.C.), getting its third recent incarnation here in this staging by Lydia Koniordou for the National Theatre of Greece, is probably the first anti-war play ever written, almost certainly the first to invite a world power to view its victories through the losers' eyes. In Greek, with supertitles. New York City Center, 135 W 55th, 212-581-1212Feingold
The Blue Door
Previews begin Sept 28, opens Oct 10
An African American math whiz with insomnia and a panoply of ancestral ghosts are the elements of this two-character play by the much heralded writer Tanya Barfield. Leigh Silverman directs, fresh from her achievement with Lisa Kron's Well. Playwrights Horizons, 416 W 42nd, 212-279-4200Feingold
Sept 29Nov 6
André De Shields, a dazzler in classics as in musicals, will tackle the king who tries to outshout storms in artistic director Alfred Preisser's Classical Theatre of Harlem production. HSA Theater, 645 St Nicholas Ave, 212-868-4444Feingold
Previews begin Oct 3, opens Nov 2
The revolutionary costume comes to Broadway! More important, it comes with brilliant Christine Ebersole wearing it, heading the cast of last spring's improbable, preposterously entertaining Off-Broadway musical version of a documentary film about two aging, dotty society dames. Mary Louise Wilson and John McMartin add their star luster to Ebersole's for this risky venture, staged by Michael Greif. Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 W 48th, 212-239-6200Feingold
Next Wave Festival
Oct 3Dec 16
Among the highlights of a theater-heavy BAM season, look for: Impermanence, a major new work by multitask-meister Meredith Monk (Nov 15); Ibsen's The Wild Duck in a staging by Norway's Nationaltheatret (Oct 2529); and a Twelfth Night by English whiz Declan Donnellan performed by an all-male Russian cast (Nov 712). Brooklyn Academy of Music, 30 Lafayette Ave & 651 Fulton St, 718-636-4100, bam.orgFeingold
The Tooth of Crime
Previews begin Oct 3, opens Oct 5, through Oct 22
The 1972 play that confirmed Sam Shepard's stature has undergone many ripenings and rewrites over the years. This revival of George Ferencz's 1983 production has gotten the author's one-time-only permission to use its original text. Ray Wise reprises the lead role of Hoss, for which he won an Obie back then. La MaMa E.T.C., 74A E 4th, 212-475-3333Feingold
My Name Is Rachel Corrie
Previews begin Oct 5, opens Oct 15, through Nov 19
Though New York Theater Workshop bulldozed its planned production last season, this posthumous play has now arrived safely in the city. Ordinarily the life of a 23-year-old activist might make for a rather short evening of theater, but this drama, adapted by Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner from Corrie's writings, won raves during its London run. Minetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Ln, 212-307-4100Soloski