The production opening on Broadway this month, directed by Kenny Leon, is lucky to have Joshua Jackson, best known for television work including “The Affair,” in the role. He’s an even match for Ms. Ridloff, which is saying something.
For the follow-up to her 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner, “Sweat,” Lynn Nottage leaves broken-down Reading, Pa., for Kenya, and leaves the hollowed-out factory workers there for … elephants?
Yes, “Mlima’s Tale,” a play about the black market “ivory highway,” stars Sahr Ngaujah (Broadway’s “Fela!”) as the title pachyderm. The rest of the Public Theater’s cast — Kevin Mambo, Ito Aghayere and Jojo Gonzalez — play a variety of characters, from poachers to collectors, who come into contact with Mlima serially, in the manner of “La Ronde.”
But don’t expect romantic roundelays from Ms. Nottage, for whom politics is never far from the surface. After all, this 90-minute drama, directed by Jo Bonney, opens just as the United States is lifting its Obama-era ban on big-game trophies and as the death of the last male white rhinoceros has assured the extinction of that overhunted animal.
George Bernard Shaw’s “Saint Joan” offers one of the most coveted title roles in the canon. Among the maids who have led France against the English in the eight Broadway productions since 1923 are Katharine Cornell, Uta Hagen, Siobhán McKenna, Diana Sands and Lynn Redgrave. Now, Condola Rashad — so startling last year in “A Doll’s House, Part 2” and a lovely Juliet in 2013 — is the ninth to step up to the stake.
Coveted it may be, but the role is tricky. How, after all, do you play a 17-year-old girl who believes she hears God in the bells of her hometown and not make her seem, in our day, crazy? How do you reconcile the historical Joan, burned for heresy and canonized for faith, with Shaw’s Joan, a martyr for the cause of freethinking?
Luckily, the Manhattan Theater Club production — at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater, its Broadway house — is directed by Daniel Sullivan, who has experience solving such interpretive riddles. His 2010 staging of “The Merchant of Venice” made emotional sense of a play that many thought had become unproducible.
‘Miss You Like Hell’
From “Hair” to “Hamilton,” the Public Theater has a good track record with musicals that rethink what a musical can be. Its latest, “Miss You Like Hell,” with a book by Quiara Alegría Hudes (“In the Heights,” “Water by the Spoonful”) and songs by the indie singer-songwriter Erin McKeown, is no different: It tells an American road trip story, but not the usual kind.
Daphne Rubin-Vega (“Rent”) plays Beatriz, an artist who is also an undocumented Mexican immigrant, and Gizel Jiménez plays Olivia, her estranged 16-year-old daughter. Why Beatriz shows up at Olivia’s window one night, spiriting her away on a cross-country journey, is part of the mystery that gets cleared up as the miles go by.
Lear deBessonet, founder of the wonderful Public Works program, directs.
‘The Iceman Cometh’
You wouldn’t think that a play starring Denzel Washington, who has made Broadway hits out of “Fences” and “Julius Caesar,” would need extra help luring an audience. But at four or five hours long, depending on how it’s cut and directed, Eugene O’Neill’s classic drama about the American cult of hopefulness can seem intimidating.
It needn’t be, as the most recent major revival, starring Nathan Lane at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, proved. For one thing, its portrait of the lost-soul habitués of a Manhattan saloon — a “Who’s Who in Dipsomania” — is never less than compelling. For another, those barflies, tarts, anarchists and con artists are all juicy roles that, when cast well, promise fireworks.
You would expect fireworks anyway from a production directed by George C. Wolfe, who brings a musical sensibility to large-scale plays. (He directed the Broadway premiere of “Angels in America.”) But Mr. Washington is also surrounded at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater by a cherry-picked company of top stage actors, including Bill Irwin, David Morse, Tammy Blanchard, Reg Rogers and Frank Wood.
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