This Week on Stage: Greta Gerwig debuts, Tonys post-mortem

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Image Credit: Matthew Murphy

To paraphrase Stephen Sondheim: Another theater season just got off of the train. But the start of the 2014-15 season is already threatening to jump off the track a little. After Sunday night’s mixed-results Tonys ceremony (No “in memoriam” segment? And did we really need to see Hugh Jackman embarrass himself rap?), the Tony administration committee announced that they would be discontinuing the sound design categories, to much consternation; in fact, 19,000 theater professionals and fans have already signed a petition to reinstate them, and the number keeps growing. (Ironic, too, as the Tony telecast at Radio City Music Hall is often criticized for poor sound quality.) But one of the show’s highlights was big winner Neil Patrick Harris essaying the flirtatious rocker “Sugar Daddy” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch (which won best musical revival), and EW proudly scooped the news that The Book of Mormon and Girls star Andrew Rannells will take over the role after Aug. 17, which is Harris’ final day. And given that he’s done it before, he should have no problem assuming those sausage curls and platform boots (though he’ll do it eight times a week after the summer, as opposed to Harris’ seven). And despite the season anew, there are no shortage of new shows opening around the country, including Blythe Danner taking on L.A. before Broadway this fall, a threesome of new works by one of the stage’s leading comedy writers, a new musical from the folks at Playwrights Horizons, and Noah Baumbach’s muse (and real-life partner) Greta Gerwig in her first NYC stage role in a new play from Britain (click on the links below for full reviews):

Ayckbourn Ensemble The Norman Conquests author, now 75 and prolific as ever with 78 (!) plays under his belt, premieres three new plays at 59E59 Theaters Off Broadway, and Melissa Rose Bernardo weighs in on the quality of each. The sole full-length play, Arrivals & Departures, “emerges as the most challenging of the bunch,” but our critic preferred the one-acts that accompany it, Time of My Life and Farcicals. Says the review: “We had to wait three whole years for another Ayckbourn fix, which might as well be a lifetime for an American fan…fortunately, we’ve been more than generously compensated for our longer-than-average wait.” EW grades: Arrivals: B; Time of My Life: A-; Farcicals: B+

The Country House Pulitzer-winner Donald Margulies premieres his newest play about a Chekhovian-flavored family of actors spending a weekend in the country, starring Blythe Danner and Scandal‘s Scott Foley. Did EW’s Los Angeles-based Jake Perlman enjoy his stay? “The meta-comedy is full of humor and astute observations on a central question of life in Hollywood: the nature of art vs. celebrity…Danner embraces the contradictions of her role as a woman who’s made a career out of playing other women but seems unprepared for the role she was born to play: herself.” EW grade: B+

Fly By Night Whimsy, romance and the 1960s co-mingle in this new musical produced by Playwrights Horizons, about a hapless, grieving sandwich shop employee juggling his feelings for a pair of sisters in Mad Men-era NYC. Senior editor Thom Geier thought the tuner mostly took flight: “I was mostly charmed by Fly By Night, which benefits from Carolyn Cantor’s well-paced direction and David Korins’ simple but effective set design. But even my patience was tried in places….[the musical] doesn’t always move forward, but it does keep moving.” EW grade: B

Our New Girl  Atlantic Theater Company’s second stage black box presents a new work by Dublin-based writer Nancy Harris about a power struggle between the parents and nanny of a troubled 8 year-old child. Correspondent Stephan Lee felt properly unsettled by the challenging material and sharp focus, stating “director Gaye Taylor Upchurch deftly choreographs the scenes to make all of the blows land sharply. Throughout the two acts, your loyalties shift constantly among the four players until you’re left to wonder, ‘Who’s the biggest sociopath?'” EW grade: B+

The Village Bike  Frances Ha star Greta Gerwig trades her willowy light charm for unsettled sexual abandon in this new import from British writer Penelope Skinner and directed by the ubiquitous Sam Gold (The Realistic Joneses), and though she’s as engaging as ever, the end result is puzzling yet sometimes enlightening, says my review. “What begins as an intriguing Brit-com devolves into a Neil LaBute-like scouring of gender roles and addiction, which would be fine if Skinner’s play was able to decide how serious it would like to be…the spokes on this Village Bike are a bit rusty, but its ideas may cycle through your mind well after the curtain call.” EW grade: B-

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