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Inside ‘Slave Play’s’ Starry Opening Night With Jake Gyllenhaal, Zazie Beetz and More

Ever since it started Off-Broadway at New York Theater Workshop, “Slave Play” has been a celebrity magnet.

Madonna, Stephen Sondheim, Whoopi Goldberg and Scarlett Johansson were just some of the boldface attendees at the downtown East Fourth Street space. Since beginning previews on Broadway last month at the Golden Theatre, Janelle Monae, Gloria Steinem and Rihanna have paid visits to see the provocative play. (Rihanna, creating a bit of internet backlash, infamously texted during the show.)

More came in droves to Sunday night’s official Broadway opening.

Paul Alexander Nolan and Joaquina Kalukango'Slave Play' opening night on Broadway, New York, USA - 06 Oct 2019
CREDIT: Gregory Pace/Shutterstock

It was actually rather glittery for an evening on the Boards. Among the guests were: Jake Gyllenhaal, whose company, Nine Stories, is a producer of the Broadway run; his sister Maggie Gyllenhaal; Ansel Elgort, who was casual in a blue t-shirt from La Parmagiana restaurant in Southampton; Zazie Beetz, currently riding the monster success of “Joker”; Rachel Brosnahan; “Mudbound” filmmaker Dee Rees; playwrights Matthew Lopez (this season’s “The Inheritance”) and Lynn Nottage; artist Kehinde Wiley; Tom Hiddleston and Zawe Ashton (both performing next door in Pinter’s “Betrayal”); Michael Cera and “A Star Is Born” Oscar winner Mark Ronson (also sporting a tattered t-shirt).

The truth is that “Slave Play” writer Jeremy O. Harris, 30, is a bit of a heat-seeking missile at the moment, with many well-known admirers.

“Did you see ‘Daddy?’” asked model-actress Emily Ratajkowski as she walked into the Golden from West 45th Street. She was referring to Harris’ other play this year, produced by the New Group and starring Alan Cumming.

“I did,” Ratajkowski added. “Jeremy’s a friend.”

Harris was also spotted in deep conversation with Elgort outside of Alice Tully Hall at last Thursday’s New York Film Festival screening of “Uncut Gems.”

Ato Blankson-Wood and James Cusati-Moyer'Slave Play' opening night on Broadway, New York, USA - 06 Oct 2019
CREDIT: Broadway World/Shutterstock

Meanwhile, at Sunday’s opening, actor Lee Pace was seeing “Slave Play” for the third time.

“Jeremy’s a friend,” Pace explained, repeating the evening’s apparent mantra.

A bustling after-party took place at Second at the Eventi Hotel. Drinks were served with “Slave Play” ice cubes while bright yellow chairs (a prop in the show) graced the ceiling. An Instagram-ready sign read “Mother F—er I am the prize,” a particularly raucous and poignant quote from Harris’ play.

Ronson was on tap to deejay — not exactly a regular occurrence at your typical Broadway fete, which ordinarily features silver trays of chicken fingers and trillions of producers jostling for selfies with the talent. How did Ronson come to be working the party? The explanation was simple.

“Jeremy asked me,” he said.

Though Harris’ scope in “Slave Play” is large — therapy, racism, relationships — the playwright explained that his goals for what audiences should take away were rather circumspect.

“I just want people to have a conversation,” Harris said. “That’s all I want.”

(Pictured, top to bottom: Jeremy O. Harris; Paul Alexander Nolan, Joaquina Kalukango; Ato Blankson-Wood, James Cusati-Moyer; Jake Gyllenhaal, Riva Marker)

Jake Gyllenhaal and Riva Marker'Slave Play' opening night on Broadway, New York, USA - 06 Oct 2019
CREDIT: Gregory Pace/Shutterstock

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