This Week On Stage: Rebecca Hall and Frank Langella take on the classics

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Image Credit: Joan Marcus

The winter chill may still be in the air but the theater season hasn’t cooled down too much; an extension has been granted for the Patrick Stewart/Ian McKellen Pinter-Beckett duo on the Great White Way, the Mark Rylance Shakespeare plays recently entered the top 10 weekly Broadway grossers (an astonishing feat for classic plays), Oscar-winning filmmaker Steven Soderbergh will take on Off Broadway’s Public Theater with a new play by frequent collaborator Scott Z. Burns to star Chloe Grace Moretz (Carrie), and lots more big stars are soon to be touching down.

Daniel Radcliffe will return to NYC to take on the lead role in Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan (for which he got rave reviews in London last year). The dream-team cast of The Realistic Joneses (Michael C. Hall, Toni Collette, Tracy Letts and Marisa Tomei) are definitely setting up camp this season, though curiously still have no theater (hmmm…). And some little birdies are chirping that megastar Hugh Jackman is eyeballing a Jez Butterworth play called The River as a return to Broadway in 2015 now that Houdini has vanished from the lineup. And this week marks an unusually busy week of openings for January, including the Broadway debut of rising British star Rebecca Hall, Frank Langella’s go to the Bard’s ultimate patriarch, and the auspicious breakthrough by one of our great new musical leading ladies (click on the links below to read the full reviews):

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical  Senior editor Thom Geier checked out the new Douglas McGrath-penned look at the formative years of the all-time vocalist scribe, starring the fast-ascending Jessie Mueller as the curly-topped good girl who broke through the glass ceiling of pop songwriting. While acknowledging some of the musical’s missteps, his review has lots of praise to spare, especially for its cast:  “It boasts a winning central performance by Jessie Mueller…[and] fills the charisma vacuum with the substantial addition of King and [Gerry] Goffin’s friendly songwriting rivals Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, played with megawatt scene-stealing abandon by Anika Larsen and Jarrod Spector.” EW grade: B+

King Lear   Brooklyn Academy of Music brings over the Chichester, England, production starring three-time Tony winner Frank Langella as the titular monarch in an eye-catching (and eye-losing) evening. Thom Geier found it sharper than a serpent’s tooth, highlighting the grand contribution of Mr. Langella: “[The] showiest effect is Langella himself, whose occasional flashes of lucidity in the midst of mental decay have their own poetry It’s a touching peek at a titan reduced to a childlike state by dementia and hubris.” EW grade: A–

Loot  The great Joe Orton’s classic dark farce about crooks in cahoots gets a tweak in a new Off Broadway production by NYC’s Red Bull Theater. Unfortunately, it did not steal my attention. As I wrote in my review: “Keenly designed but woefully under-rehearsed…the only creaks one should ever hear in an astute production of this play are the ones of a telltale wardrobe cupboard that periodically opens. This Loot, unfortunately, could use a shot of WD-40.” EW grade: C

Machinal  Sophie Treadwell’s landmark 1928 Expressionist drama (selected last year as one of the all-time greats in EW’s Stage list) gets a visceral facelift from Roundabout Theatre Company, starring Parade’s End’s Rebecca Hall. Did Melissa Rose Bernardo find the based-on-true-life crime saga arresting? “Hall, a British actress who’s making her Broadway debut, is spectacular in a near-impossible role,” but adds, “unfortunately, Machinal isn’t consistently intriguing or the tiniest bit emotionally involving.”  EW grade: B-

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