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Terrence McNally's "It’s Only a Play" Is Revived at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
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Terrence McNally's "It’s Only a Play" Is Revived at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

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Tom Kirdahy, Roy Furman, Ken Davenport
et al.

F. Murray Abraham, Matthew Broderick
Stockard Channing, Rupert Grint,
Nathan Lane, Megan Mullally

and introducing Micah Stock
It’s Only a Play
(It’s Only a Play Website)

By Terrence McNally
Directed by Jack O’Brien

Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
236 West 45th Street

Scenic Design: Scott Pask
Costume Design: Ann Roth
Lighting Design: Philip Rosenberg
Sound Design: Fitz Patton
Hair, Wigs, & Makeup: Campbell Young Associates
Technical Supervision: Hudson Theatrical Associates
Casting: Caparelliotis Casting
Press: O&M Co.
Advertising & Promotions: AKA
Marketing: DTE
Production Stage Manager: Jane Grey
Company Manager: Doug Gaeta
General Manager: Richards/Climan, Inc.

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 21, 2014

Now I know why this revival is already sold out. It’s hilarious, and the audience laughed harder than ever, as the “in jokes” fell like the snow in the winter-set play. Terrence McNally first wrote It’s Only a Play for a 1982 Off-Off Broadway opening and 1986 Off-Broadway revival. Now, on Broadway, Mr. McNally has revised names and jokes to fit the times. This play is about opening night of a play about the theater world by Peter Austin (Matthew Broderick). James Wicker (Nathan Lane), Austin’s close friend and a seasoned actor, turned down the lead, as he was busy filming a television series. Virginia Noyes (Stockard Channing) has a lead in Austin’s play, and Frank Finger (Rupert Grint) is the play’s director. It’s post-opening night, and a winter’s hell-raising party is downstairs. This play is set upstairs, in producer, Julia Budder’s (Megan Mullally) Manhattan townhouse. Theater critic, Ira Drew (F. Murray Abraham), has joined the upstairs “party within a party” waiting for the New York Times review of the “play within a play”. Gus P. Head (Micah Stock), who’s looking for a break in the industry, is working as coat check, carrying furs, boas, hats, and coats, piling them on Julia’s bed. The immediate sense of this stage, as the lights first shine, is sumptuous glitz, a bit of Cole Porter panache, and impending bons mots.

The silver thread in the rapid, raucous dialogue is name-dropping, with Ben Brantley, New York Times theater critic bearing the heat, when the Act II play’s review is confronted by the frozen ensemble. Nathan Lane gives himself a nod, mentioning his love of plays like The Addams Family, and Harvey Fierstein is warmly roasted as emblematic gay. Kelly Ripa is mentioned regarding an offstage growling dog, and names like Mayor de Blasio, Lady Gaga, Frank Langella, Steven Spielberg, and Liza Minnelli float like champagne fizz. Mr. Lane, his face wrinkled up in acute angst, truly is irreplaceable. He’s explosive, larger than life, spitfire riotous, and dynamic, no, dynamite. Mr. Broderick, in tux and smirk, is, as always, understated, the matching opposite and perfect partner to Mr. Lane, as if they were reprising The Producers or The Odd Couple. Ms. Channing walked with a cane, not noticeably a prop for the play, yet she, too, was wildly entertaining, as an alcoholic, drug-addicted, seasoned stage star, who uses her palm for sprinkling and breathing cocaine.

Ms. Mullally plays the spoiled rich wife, cooing to her offstage husband, in a phone call, thankful for the funds for self-produced plays. She exudes generosity and dizziness, at once. Mr. Abraham, as the closeted playwright, while working as critic, is endearing and vulnerable, while Mr. Grint plays the nervous, hyper director, looking for a friend. Finally, Mr. Stock, as Gus, is perfectly cast as the emerging actor, who gets to narrate the review as well as Ira’s new play. He moves like a gazelle. Mr. McNally will have a hit on his hands for years, if this production keeps running, with replacement casts and replacement dropped names. It could easily move back downtown or to a midtown intimate space. In fact, there, the name-dropping would impact the dialogue with even more bite. Jack O’Brien has directed for stunningly, swift repartee and vibrant presence. Scott Pask’s set could be sold to a townhouse owner, it’s so lifelike and splendid. Ann Roth’s costumes add flair and flourish, and Philip Rosenberg’s lighting is ebulliently bright. Fitz Patton kept those bon mots crisp and resonant. Kudos to Terrence McNally.

Rupert Grint, Megan Mullally, Matthew Broderick,
Nathan Lane, and Stockard Channing
in a scene from Broadway's "IT'S ONLY A PLAY"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at