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Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick open in 'It's Only a Play' on Broadway

Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick open in 'It's Only a Play' on Broadway
Rupert Grint, left, Megan Mullally, Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane and Stockard Channing star in "It's Only a Play" on Broadway. (Joan Marcus / Associated Press)

Marking their third Broadway collaboration since starring together more than a decade ago in "The Producers," Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick opened on Thursday in a revival of Terrence McNally's "It's Only a Play" in New York.

The ensemble play, directed by Jack O'Brien at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, is a meta-comedy about the members of a theater production who have gathered to await opening-night reviews. The cast also includes Stockard Channing, F. Murray Abraham, Megan Mullally and "Harry Potter" veteran Rupert Grint in his first Broadway outing.

McNally's play, first performed in 1982, has been updated with references to modern-day celebrities and mobile technology. Broderick plays the author of the new drama, while Lane takes the role of his best friend, a stage actor who has sold out to television.

Grint plays the director of the play-within-the-play and Channing is a vain Hollywood diva looking for a career comeback. Mullally plays the part of a wealthy producer whose townhouse serves as the setting for the comedy, while Abraham is a cranky New York critic.

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The Lane-Broderick reunion appears to have lifted box-office results for "Play" to unusually strong levels during its preview period, with weekly grosses exceeding $1 million for the past five weeks. 

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Ben Brantley of the New York Times described the revival production as a "deliriously dishy revival." He also acknowledged being referenced himself in the play, saying that he finds it "hard to take the references too personally. For one thing, the self-important, vitriolic Mr. Brantley is treated no more harshly than the self-important, vitriolic characters onstage."

The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney wrote that the play amounts to a "two-hour-40-minute New Yorker cartoon" that is elevated by McNally's "equal-opportunity ribbing of everyone involved."

The theater in-jokes eventually start "to feel less like the tight collaboration of a writer and director intent on keeping the comedy machinery humming than the product of an overcrowded writers' room full of gagmeisters trying to outdo one another," Rooney wrote.

Marilyn Stasio of Variety called the revival production "a trifle. But the well-aimed and highly personal zingers are more malicious, and delicious" than in the play's previous incarnations. As the foul-mouthed Hollywood star with a plethora of legal problems, "Channing appears to be in heaven in this bad-girl role."

Entertainment Weekly's Thom Geier write that "despite McNally's considerable revisions, there's just not enough plot here to sustain a two-and-a-half-hour show -- and what plot there is can seem thinner and more obvious than Abraham's toupee. But this is the sort of comedy that puts the broad in Broadway."

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT 

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