Two Broadway shows curtail limited runs

Two plays with limited engagements, “A Life in the Theatre” and “La Bete,” recently got a bit more limited, with producers of each announcing a closing date that was sooner than legiters expected.

But it’s a little too soon to call it a trend in a crowded fall season. While one has struggled at the box office and will shutter imminently, the other’s curtailed run will add up to a respectable 16 weeks.

“A Life in the Theatre,” the revival of the David Mamet two-hander starring Patrick Stewart and T.R. Knight, never caught on at the box office after earning mixed reviews. Last week the play brought in a bit more than $200,000, up from the $185,000 logged the prior sesh.

“Life” is sticking around through the Thanksgiving frame, which traditionally brings a bonanza of tourist biz to the Main Stem. Show is set to play through Nov. 28, finishing five weeks before its intended end date.

“La Bete” is also trimming about five weeks off its run, which now ends Jan. 9. By doing so, the play avoids the annual winter slump when Rialto ticket sales drop drastically.

“Given that it’s the worst time of year without question, we wanted to protect ourselves from that and could go out with the show on a high,” said producer Sonia Friedman.

She added that although the production was intended as a limited engagement, the show had never officially announced an end date. The weeks in January and early February, for which tickets were being sold on Telecharge, were only there in case demand seemed strong enough to sustain “La Bete” through the winter chill, according to the producer.

“In retrospect, what we should have done is announce the 16 weeks originally,” she said. (On Broadway, it’s not uncommon for limited runs of star-driven non-musicals to plan stints as brief as 12 weeks.)

The rhyming-couplet period comedy, starring David Hyde Pierce, Joanna Lumley and Mark Rylance, scored strong reviews, particularly for Rylance as the titular buffoon. Sales have mostly hovered in the $300,000-$350,000 range since it began previews Sept. 23.

Production also has a healthy fiscal cushion thanks to a pre-Gotham run in London which, according to Friedman, came close to recouping.

The production’s financial model was built on that transatlantic life for the show, with the Broadway stint skedded hard on the heels on the West End engagement.

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