John Patrick Shanley’s new play “Doubt” is expected but not confirmed to go into the Walter Kerr Theater, where it would replace the soon-to-shutter “Gem of the Ocean.” Producers of the August Wilson play announced the production will close Feb. 6.
Shanley’s drama, about a nun who accuses a priest of sexual misconduct with a minor, has long been in search of a Broadway venue. It opened last year to good notices at Manhattan Theater Club’s Off Broadway space, drawing immediate speculation about a commercial transfer.
The problem, until now, has been the dearth of available, not to mention appropriate (i.e., intimate), theaters. Under the direction of Doug Hughes, “Doubt” stars Cherry Jones and Brian F. O’Byrne.
“Gem” and “Doubt” are both considered front-runners for this year’s Pulitzer Prize in drama.
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“Gem of the Ocean” represents one of Wilson’s shorter runs on Broadway. The drama, starring Phylicia Rashad, will have played 15 previews and 72 regular perfs when it shutters. The recent revival of Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” with Whoopi Goldberg clocked in 14 previews and 68 regular perfs. The scribe’s previous original Broadway offering, “King Hedley,” did 24 previews and 72 regular perfs in 2001.
“Gem” ran into trouble early on when $1 million in investor money dropped out shortly before its skedded Broadway premiere. Carole Shorenstein Hays came to the rescue, pushing back the preem date and replacing lead producer Benjamin Mordecai on the project. “Gem” producers also include the Jujamcyn Theaters, which own the Walter Kerr.
In a statement, Jujamcyn’s Rocco Landesman said, “We were simply unable to build an audience during the historically harsh months of January and February.”
“Gem” got hit harder than most shows by last week’s blizzard. It dropped $47,347 to gross $185,270. Only the previewing “Brooklyn Boy” took in less on Broadway.
More telling to its B.O. status, the Wilson play saw receipts shrink during the previous January session, which included the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.
Shorenstein Hays closes one, opens another. She holds the commercial rights to “Doubt,” which is expected to debut on Broadway before the May 4 Tony Awards cutoff date.
Not all straight plays are in trouble, however. The run of Billy Crystal’s “700 Sundays,” which has seen boffo B.O., has extended through May 21.
The solo show began previews Nov. 12 at the Broadhurst and opened Dec. 5 for an originally scheduled 16-week engagement.