How Did NY Nightlife Get So Oppressive? Search Me.

Plus: Getting a message or two from Rufus and a ride-along with Andrew

In the world of even-lower-brow entertainment, theater has suffered two blows recently. The first was The Pirate Queen. The second was the revelation that the Virginia-rampage gunman was a budding playwright. And now comes the chattering on the Broadway boards—don't stab the messenger—about TERRENCE MCNALLY's tennis play, Deuce, starring those great presences, ANGELA LANSBURY and MARIAN SELDES. The natterers say that in early previews, the ladies had been going up on lines, which required the use of an offstage person occasionally prompting them. Maybe they should have given both broads an earpiece, like Mary Martin had in the doomed comedy Legends—though supposedly Martin accidentally got wired into a traffic report at one performance and was fed lines like, "There's a pileup on LaBrea!" It couldn't have been worse than anything in Legends.

A male sparring match in which showbiz trumps politics, Frost/Nixon pits TV interviewer DAVID FROST against Richard Nixon (though a New Yorker listing wrongly said the play was about Robert Frost. At least it didn't claim the poet interviewed CYNTHIA NIXON). The result is an absorbing and ultimately touching battle of wills, despite extraneous stuff and a little Nixon-style fudging of its own. I pray it doesn't pave the way for such dramatic works as Chung/Condit, Letterman/Madonna, and Danza/Carrot Top.

The FANTASIA BARRINO/JENNIFER HUDSON battle royale is finally allowing for a more even sharing of the spoils. To recap: First, Barrino beat Hudson on American Idol; then Hudson edged out Barrino for Dreamgirls; and now Barrino conquers Broadway in The Color Purple, the gorgeously uplifting adaptation I'm not ashamed to say I voted for as Best Musical last year. Putting one more mass-appeal TV star on Broadway could have easily amounted to just another cheesy bit of stunt casting, but in this case it's a piece of sheer genius that totally REBA MCENTIREs up the show. Less passively shellshocked than her predecessor, Fantasia fully inhabits the role, serving up pathos, defiance, humor, and sass as the woman who feels God abandoned her but who learns to fully love herself. (Well, OPRAH produced it.) She's triumphant! The only booby prize goes to the dad in the audience who grabbed his kids and ran after the loving lesbian kiss; I guess the rape, incest, and physical abuse were fine, though.

The color pink dominated Lions at the Armory, a kickoff for the Antiquarian Book Fair, where caffeiney Pink vodka cocktails and sticky pink popcorn treats matched everyone's clutch bags and seizure pills. I was tickled pink to see DAVID BLAINE make $1,200 disappear on a very special antique copy of The Little Prince. "It's better than spending it on a suit," he told me, beaming. True—though at least a suit can't be turned into a bad movie.

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