Doesn’t the season just grow ever more topsy-turvy? It’s weird enough watching the migration of commercial playwrights to Off Broadway theaters. But who would ever have imagined the flip side, that no less an avatar of the nonprofit theater than Adrian Hall himself would suddenly be called in to tug a $2.5 million show boat into its Broadway port of call?
A protege of Margo Jones, the Texas-born Hall founded the Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, R.I. For a time in the ’80s the flamboyant director ran that company and the Dallas Theater Center simultaneously because, as he announced with typical immodesty, he wanted to be the Leonard Bernstein of theater. No more passionate director lives, nor anyone more evangelical: To hear Hall preach the gospel of the resident theater movement is to know that on the eighth day God created LORT, and that on Broadway Satan dwells.
And yet here he is, having replaced Gordon Edelstein as the director of “On the Waterfront.” The long arm of “Waterfront” designer Eugene Lee is herein felt; Lee has been Hall’s collaborator for three decades. Indeed, as Hall was taking over “Waterfront,” the duo was commuting from Washington, where their production of “The Taming of the Shrew” was heading for an April 11 opening at the Shakespeare Theater. OK, “Waterfront” is not actually Hall’s Broadway debut; that would have been “Wilson in the Promised Land” – remember?- in 1970, followed in 1982 by “The Hothouse,” an early Harold Pinter drama about the sinister, lecherous, backstabbing, macabre goings-on in a backwater mental institution – sounds like Broadway! But both of those were short-lived Trinity transfers, so they don’t really count.
“Waterfront” is obviously going through labor pains; one star (Terry Kinney) departed (he has been replaced by David Morse), and David Amram has taken over for Wynton Marsalis, who was to have contributed original music. Hall is an actor’s director, and if anyone can steady a company’s fraying nerves, he can – so long as everyone else stays out of his way. But with $2.5 million on the line, don’t count on that happening.