Play shows rare feat of legit humility

NEW YORK — Not many producers’ bios include the words “former intelligence officer with the C.I.A.,” but Anthony Marshall‘s does.

Marshall, the son of Gotham society doyenne Brooke Astor, and his wife, Charlene, have formed a production company with veteran showman David Richenthal.

Their first project: “I Am My Own Wife.”

In a rare feat of legit humility, their names are not above the title on Doug Wright‘s new play. Instead, their new company, Delphi Prods., is billed.

Anthony Marshall explains the setup.

“David is president and artistic director, Charlene is secretary-treasurer and I’m chairman of the board,” he says; there are a total of seven on the board, not all of them investors. (For example, Toby Simkin, a Web site designer from Canada, gets a seat.)

As for those all-important money people, Marshall says Delphi is a good deal.

“It is usually 50-50 between the general partnership and the investors; we’re offering 80% to the investor,” he says.

The word “Delphi” comes, of course, from the oracle of Apollo, which delivered news of battle. Having fought at Iwo Jima, Marshall knows all about war. “The theater is a little like going into battle. It is very tense,” he offers. “But you can’t get killed, only wounded.”

But Marshall still has scars from an earlier foray into legit.

In 1982 Marshall partnered with another novice producer, Sabra Jones, to bring the Kate Burton starrer “Alice in Wonderland” to Broadway. Time has not made him forget the numbers.

“I raised $2 million, it did 38 performances. I didn’t have to pay out-of-pocket because we closed it in time,” he said. Upon which Marshall did what first-time big losers always do: “I went into hibernation.”

Delphi hopes to have three productions on Broadway in 2004. That’s ambitious, but when Marshall mentions having “known Dick Nixon well and worked on both campaigns” and in the same breath adds that he “helped raise slightly under $1.5 million” for a play about transvestite Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, you know anything is possible.

Critical Matters

String theory

With only two more weeks to go as a New York Times theater critic, Bruce Weber should know what lovely things the legit community is saying about him behind his back. “Professional,” “first-rate” and “fair and balanced” are just a few kudos Weber can take with him as he returns to being a reporter.

On Jan. 1, Margo Jefferson replaces him. Ornery critters, theater people make a ritual of carping about the new critic at the Times.

Jefferson is no exception. Off the record (surprise), some industry players are calling her appointment “bizarre” and “misguided.” Says one, “If she couldn’t make her Sunday deadlines back when she replaced Vincent Canby, what makes them think she can turn around reviews on a daily basis?”

That should not be a problem now that the Times often holds Off Broadway reviews for days, sometimes weeks after opening.

Sources reveal the Pulitzer Prize-winning Jefferson won’t stoop to reviewing junk like “Laughing Room Only.” So look for a third-stringer to clean up.

I’m more interested in knowing what will happen if “Caroline, or Change” comes to Broadway. (Latest report: HBO and at least four commercial producers are on board, with Carole Shorenstein Hays still undecided.)

Will the Times reprint Ben Brantley‘s mixed review, or will he re-review in the wake of Frank Rich‘s enthusiastic Sunday piece? Or will the assignment go to Jefferson?

Other Times legit news: Jesse Green goes into the new post of Sunday culture correspondent. He tells publicists he’ll be covering theater, among other beats. Is he the long-awaited Arts & Leisure legit critic?

“No,” says Arts & Leisure chief Jodi Kantor. “And there are no plans to have a Sunday theater critic.”

Agents in Place

Waiting to exhale

Reports in the Post and Daily News have hordes of CAA agents descending upon Gotham in 2004.

True, the agency’s new Gotham digs at 162 Fifth Ave. opens sometime early next year. But as for multitudes of biblical proportions, WMA and ICM can relax.

Last February, CAA bought the market research company Youth Intelligence, and its 11 staffers will be housed in the new CAA office. Joining them there are theater agents George Lane and Michael Cardonick, endorsements agent Peter Hess and Kelly Flatow, a marketing person. Otherwise, there are no immediate plans to hire or relocate TV or motion picture agents .

As for new CAA clients, that is a different story. There are many. Latest signings include playwrights Leslie Ayvazian (“Lovely Day”), Brooke Berman (“The Triple Happiness”), Julian Sheppard (“Buicks”) and Tristine Skyler (“The Moonlight Room”).

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