By:Barry Bassis

Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur were familiar with the newspaper business and politics and brilliantly lampooned both in their 1928 comedy “The Front Page.” Filmed a number of times, the play is now back on Broadway with a top-notch cast, directed by Jack O’Brien. Set in the grimy press room in the Chicago Criminal Courts Building, the reporters are waiting for the execution of Earl Williams (John Magaro), an alleged Communist convicted of killing a black policeman.  The newspaper men are Endicott (Lewis J. Stadlen), Schwartz (David Pittu), Murphy (Christopher McDonald), McCue (Dylan Baker), Wilson (Joey Slotnick), Kruger (Clarke Thorell), the effete Bensinger (Jefferson Mays) and star reporter Hildy Johnson (John Slattery), who plans to leave his paper and marry Peggy (Halley Feiffer). The dumb sheriff is played by John Goodman, Micah Stock is a police officer, Sherie Rene Scott is a streetwalker sympathetic to Williams, Holland Taylor is Peggy’s mother, Dann Florek is the dishonest mayor and Robert Morse is a courier from the Governor’s office. Best of all is Nathan Lane as Walter Burns, Hildy’s strong-willed and unethical editor. When Lane appears in Act II, the comedy shifts into high gear.

 

The Front Page is at the Broadhurst Theater until January 29th. It’s James Bond against Dr. Martin Luther King at New York Theater Workshop. Well, not exactly. David Oyelowo (who played Dr. King in “Selma”) is Shakespeare’s Othello and Daniel Craig (best known as 007) is Iago in a production directed by Sam Gold. The setting has been moved to modern army barracks with soldiers on mattresses playing guitars. Othello is every bit the warrior but is also the lover of Desdemona (the affecting Rachel Brosnahan). Oyelowo is credible in all his moods, but the scene stealer here is Craig’s Iago. He seems to garner an unusual number of laughs but at the same time comes across as more sinister.  Finn Wittrock is fine as Cassio, Othello’s subordinate, who Iago passes off as Desdemona’s lover. The audience is seated in bleachers on both sides of the stage and feels as if it is a part of the action.

 

 

“In Transit” (at Circle in the Square) is billed as Broadway’s first a cappella musical. No one will miss musical instruments because of the savvy arrangements by Deke Sharon and the engaging cast, especially body percussionist Chesney Snow as Boxman. The show takes place in the New York subway system, where all the riders seem to be twenty-somethings working out their occupational or romantic problems. There is a gay couple Justin Guarini and Telly Leung), hiding their relationship from an evangelical mother (Moya Angela), an actress trying to get a big break (Margo Seibert); a woman (Erin Mackey) trying to get over her rejection by her boyfriend; and the former Wall Street hot-shot (James Snyder) fired for sending an inappropriate e-mail.

The mini-dramas are rather hackneyed but the score is pleasant and well sung and director-choreographer Kathleen Marshall makes it into a smooth entertainment. Nicky Silver has had a long relationship with the Vineyard Theater and his latest comedy, “This Day Forward,” directed by Mark Brokaw, had a brief run. The first act takes place in 1958, on the wedding night of Irene (Holley Fain) and Martin (Michael Crane). A series of events occur that suggest an annulment would be the best solution but they stay together. In the second act, in 2004, Martin is dead and Crane returns as the gay son of the ill-fated couple. Fain is their daughter and the elderly mother is played by June Gable. (Gable had been an Eastern European hotel maid in the first act). The play begins promisingly as a farce but, despite an able cast, runs out of steam in the second half.

 

 

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