Back around the turn of the millennium, it was not unusual for Broadway to go for months without a new play on its many boards. The rise of the nonprofits helped there, but the oft-raised fear was that the non-musical would be relegated to the very limited non-commercial run.
Recent seasons have proven the doomsayers wrong; and currently, no fewer than five new plays currently on Broadway made the leap from nonprofit to commercial stints: Jon Robin Baitz’s “Other Desert Cities,” Rick Elice’s “Peter and the Starcatchers,” David Ives’ “Venus in Fur,” Bruce Norris’ “Clybourne Park” and Nicky Silver’s “The Lyons.”
That’s more new plays than graced some entire Broadway seasons back in the 1980s and ’90s. And it doesn’t count that rarest of legit breed, the commercial world preem of a play on Broadway. Theresa Rebeck and Eric Simonson jumped in without a nonprofit safety net, giving us, respectively, “Seminar” and “Magic/Bird.”
Another world premiere, but under the auspices of the nonprofit MTC, is “The Columnist,” David Auburn’s long-awaited follow-up to “Proof.” John Lithgow stars as Vietnam War-defender Joseph Alsop in the bioplay, set to open end of season.
Shuttered but not to be dismissed in the Tony contest are Lydia R. Diamond’s “Stick Fly,” David Henry Hwang’s “Chinglish” and Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop,” which starred Angela Bassett and Samuel L. Jackson. It recouped! The legit community tends to applaud such an accomplishment come award time.
Did anyone forget to mention the U.K.? The aforemention plethora of original plays are all homegrown. The Brits, who have an ongoing love affair with Tony, are fewer in number than usual this year but are likely to make their presence felt once again. Peter Quilter profiles Judy Garland in the recently opened “End of the Rainbow” and Richard Bean’s comedy “One Man, Two Guvnors” from the National Theater looks ready to laugh its way to the bank.