2017 Spring Preview Part 2: The Plays

2017 Spring Preview Part 2: The Plays

To make up for the paucity of new plays in the first half of this season, there is a bumper harvest of six new works slated to open on Broadway before the Tony cutoff date at the end of April. All the more remarkable is that all six writers (two of whom are women) are making their debuts on the Great White Way this season. But, of course, no Broadway season is complete without a Miller or a Williams — and in the coming month we will get the opportunity to savor their work as well. Here are the plays for the rest of the season.

August Wilson’s earliest work, Jitney (Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, opens January 19), is the only work from the two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright’s epic 10-play cycle that has never been produced on Broadway. This play is set in 1970s Pittsburgh and focuses on a group of gypsy cab drivers who sit around in their cab station, swapping stories from their lives. The Manhattan Theater Club production is directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson and features an ensemble cast that includes Harvey Blanks, Anthony Chisholm, Brandon Dirden, André Holland, Carra Patterson, Michael Potts, Kevin Randolph Smith, Ray Anthony Thomas, and John Douglas Thompson.
Tennessee Williams’ perennial memory play, The Glass Menagerie (Belasco Theatre, starts February 7, opens March 9), established him as one of the great poets of the American theater in 1945; it has since been revived six times on Broadway. The current revival is directed by Sam Gold (Tony Award winner for Fun Home) and stars two-time Academy Award winner Sally Field as the overcaring and controlling mother, Amanda Wingfield. Tony winner Joe Mantello (Angels in America, The Normal Heart), better known for his work as a Tony Award–winning director in recent years, plays the Son, a stand-in of the playwright himself.

Significant Other (Booth Theatre, starts February 14, opens March 2) marks the Broadway debut of thirtysomething playwright Joshua Harmon, whose first play, Bad Jews, scored a hit when it played Off-Broadway in 2012. His latest, which premiered Off-Broadway last year, is a bittersweet New York comedy about a gay man (played by Gideon Glick) who finds himself remaining single while his three closest girlfriends find partners and get married. The Roundabout Theatre Company production is directed by Trip Cullman, an up-and-coming director who is also making his Broadway debut. The cast includes Barbara Barrie, Sas Goldberg, Rebecca Naomi Jones, and Lindsay Mendez.

Two estranged brothers who reunite to sell the remainder of their parents’ estate are forced to confront their past in the light of revelations about their recently deceased father’s finances in Arthur Miller’s The Price (American Airlines Theatre, starts February 16, opens March 16). The Roundabout Theatre Company production, which marks the fourth Broadway revival of the riveting 1968 drama by America’s great moral playwright, is directed by Terry Kinney and stars Mark Ruffalo, Tony Shalhoub, Jessica Hecht, and Danny DeVito.

You’d think Lynn Nottage wrote her timely play Sweat (Studio 54, starts March 4, opens March 26) in the aftermath of the last election. But the 2009 Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Ruined had been working on this political and personal drama, which chronicles the hardships of people facing an economic downturn in the American Rust Belt, for several years prior to its Off-Broadway debut last November at the Public Theater. The play takes place in a small neighborhood bar in the factory town of Reading, Pennsylvania. The production, directed by Kate Whoriskey, features an ensemble cast that includes Carlo Alban, James Colby, Khris Davis, Johanna Day, John Earl Jelks, Will Pullen, Miriam Shor, Lance Coadie Williams, and Michelle Wilson.

After a decade’s absence, two-time Tony Award winner Kevin Kline makes a welcome return to Broadway in the role of Gary Essendine, a self-obsessed matinee idol facing a midlife crisis, in Noël Coward’s Present Laughter (St. James Theatre, starts March 10, opens April 5). Coward, the master of wit and dry comedy, wrote the bravura role for himself, and performed it when the near-farcical comedy debuted on Broadway in 1946. The current revival (the fifth on Broadway since the original production) is directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel (Tony nominee for Hand to God); Kate Burton plays Essendine’s ex-wife, who remains a part of his coterie, and Kristine Nielsen his secretary.

Everything goes awry during an amateur production of a 1920’s murder mystery drama in The Play That Goes Wrong (Lyceum Theatre, starts March 9, opens April 2). It’s a riotous comedy about theatrical aspirations, written by Henry Lewis and Jonathan Sayer (cofounders of the English improv comedy group Mischief Theatre) and Henry Shields. The winner of the 2015 Olivier Award for Best New Comedy, the play is currently enjoying its second sold-out year in London’s West End.

Just in time to raise our consciousness under a new political regime, Broadway newcomer J.T. Nelson’s Oslo (Vivian Beaumont Theatre, starts March 23, opens April 13) thrillingly dramatizes the back-channel maneuvering that culminated in the historic Oslo peace accords between Israel and Palestine in 1993. Tony Award winners Jennifer Ehle (The Coast of Utopia) and Jefferson Mays (I Am My Own Wife) portray the two Norwegian diplomats who facilitated the negotiations. The engrossing drama first caught the attention of critics and audiences during an acclaimed Off-Broadway run last year at Lincoln Center. The production, directed by Tony winner Bartlett Sher, also features Daniel Jenkins and Daniel Oreskes.

Distinguished playwright Paula Vogel (1998 Pulitzer Prize winner for How I Learned to Drive) makes a long-overdue Broadway debut with Indecent (Cort Theatre, starts April 4, opens April 18), which enjoyed a successful run at Off-Broadway’s Vineyard Theater last year. The play with music, directed by Rebecca Taichman, is inspired by the real-life controversy surrounding the 1923 Broadway production of Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance. The Yiddish theater classic not only stirred passions because of its challenges to orthodox faith, but also, perhaps more significantly, for its sympathetic portrayal of a lesbian love affair. Vogel’s play also tracks the backstage lives of the artists who took great personal risks for being part of the controversial production.

In an unusual casting move, Tony Award winner Cynthia Nixon and three-time Oscar and Tony nominee Laura Linney will alternate in the roles of Regina Hubbard Giddens and Birdie Hubbard, the two female members of a male-dominated Southern aristocratic clan, in The Little Foxes (Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, starts March 29, opens April 19). In Lillian Hellman’s gripping 1939 drama about greed and ambition, set in Alabama in 1900, family members clash ruthlessly in their relentless pursuit of wealth. The revival is directed by Daniel Sullivan, Tony Award–winning director of Proof.

Seven-time Emmy Award winner Allison Janney (CBS’s Mom) and Tony Award winner John Benjamin Hickey star in Six Degrees of Separation (Barrymore Theatre, starts April 5, opens April 25). Corey Hawkins (Straight out of Compton) plays the young con man who inveigles his way into a wealthy family in this revival of John Guare’s celebrated comedy, which skewers the insecurities of Manhattan’s Upper East Side elites. The play was nominated for both a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award in 1991. The production is directed by Trip Cullman (who also directs Significant Other).

Rising young playwright Lucas Hnath, who was propelled to fame with the recent Off-Broadway productions of The Christians and Red Speedo, takes on Ibsen for his Broadway debut. In his contemporary take on the 19th century classic A Doll’s House, Part 2 (Golden Theatre, starts April 1, opens April 27), Nora returns to her husband and children 15 years after she walked out of her home with the dramatic door slam that shocked her world. A high-powered cast, including Laurie Metcalf (Tony nominee last year for Misery), Chris Cooper, Jayne Houdyshell (2016 Tony Award winner for The Humans), and Condola Rashad, is directed by Sam Gold, who also directs The Glass Menagerie earlier in the season.