'Thurgood' proves to be a 'don't miss'

“HAPPY PEOPLE don’t need to have fun,” wrote the late great writer Jean Stafford. But if they are happy as New York “first nighters” were on Sunday at the opening of “Boeing-Boeing,” they can’t escape having fun. This super farce is now playing to great effect on West 48th Street. Where else, I ask you, would you find yourself sitting behind two of acting’s finest females — Meryl Streep and Glenn Close — who joined each other on the aisle during intermission dishing like crazy. When I asked them in passing, “Are you two an item?” — they said they were! And the opening night crowd knew enough not to pester them because they were “audience.” The show onstage will make theater fans happy for months if there’s any justice. It offers three of the dizziest dames I’ve ever seen on one stage — Gina Gershon, Mary McCormack and Kathryn Hahn — outperforming themselves as the national stereotypes of Italy, Germany and the U.S. Wearing blue, yellow and red stewardess “uniforms,” they are simply out of this world. Ms. Gershon puts on a fine Italian accent that seems entirely authentic; she’s a regular Sophia Loren… Ms. McCormack is a knockout wow as a dynamic Germanic force of nature… Ms. Hahn is the all-American ambitious amoral sexpot. And the rest of a delectable cast is just as good — Bradley Whitford, departing from his “West Wing” self to present a womanizing heel… Mark Rylance, who appears with special U.K. Equity permission, and they had to let him have it, because who could else could play the wimpy Mr. Milquetoast he does? And, the star — Christine Baranski herself, departing from her glamorous bitches to become a down-to-earth cynical French maid put upon by slamming doors, demands for separate bedrooms, orders for coffee, hot dogs, whipped cream and sauerkraut plus all manner of craziness. All the actors are so good that they have a specially choreographed curtain call at the end. It blows the collective mind. I do want to salute costumer Rob Howell because somehow he managed to present the three stewardess bombshells as if they were pneumatic Dolly Partons. They have the six greatest legs in showbiz and — er, other attributes that make Playboy seem old hat! I salute the author Marc Camoletti and Matthew Warchus, the director of this fun fest. This show will breathe new life into Broadway for months to come. Loved, loved, loved it! Just what the doctor ordered from now and into the Democratic Convention, and even after.

WENT WITH my pal David Patrick Columbia of the website New York Social Diary.com to see the much-admired villain of “The Matrix” movies, that man among men, Laurence Fishburne, as he portrays the very first black man ever to rise to the Supreme Court. “Thurgood” is a “don’t miss” event wherein Fishburne does 90 minutes of solo standup that is as riveting as anything ever seen on a stage. One-person shows are sometimes tricky with fake phone calls, messengers delivering and other stuff to take the curse off of the single star. But Fishbourne doesn’t need any help other than the script by the brilliant George Stevens Jr. (Mr. Stevens oversees the Kennedy Center honors in D.C. and has a long movie pedigree behind him. Now he becomes a distinguished playwright treating some of the most serious happenings in American history — race, the law, the court, the Justices.) I haven’t been as thrilled by anything since I viewed all of Tom Hanks’ production of “John Adams” and read David McCullough’s books. This is American history as it should be received — vivid, funny, heartbreaking, deep, demanding and enlivened by a man able to personify youth to age without benefit of makeup. It’s called — acting! “Thurgood” is a limited engagement (into August) luring demanding audiences that really seem to appreciate its variables. Try to see this. You’ll never regret it and you’ll have a bang-up time because Justice Marshall was a wild man, a very funny, woman-loving, whiskey-drinking, precision-examiner of the Constitution of the U.S. Watch him defy the racists, Ike, Nixon, LBJ and the time in which he rose to one of the greatest places in jurisprudence.

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