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Private Lives (#110 of 2)

2011 Theater Fall Preview

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2011 Theater Fall Preview
2011 Theater Fall Preview

With Labor Day, summer vacations, and weekend getaways behind us, it’s time again to tune into the city’s arts and culture vibe. The House checked out the wide variety of theater offerings for Broadway and beyond this fall and made a few selections to put on your calendar:

New Plays

This season is notable for the number of women playwrights with new plays on Broadway. One of them is 29-year-old Katori Hall, who makes her Broadway debut with The Mountaintop (from September 22 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater). In her fictional account, which takes place in 1968, on the night before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in her own home town of Memphis, the playwright imagines a late-night encounter between King and a mysterious woman. Movie and television star Samuel L. Jackson plays the great civil rights leader and Angela Bassett the nocturnal visitor. The production is directed by Kenny Leon, who received a Tony nomination last year for directing Fences. Leon also helms the production of Stick Fly (from November 18 at the Cort Theater), which marks the Broadway debut of another African-American female playwright, Lydia R. Diamond. Stick Fly is a comedy of manners about an affluent black family spending a summer weekend at their home in Martha’s Vineyard.

Adam Rapp is well-known for not pulling his punches, so brace yourself for his latest, Dreams of Flying Dreams of Falling (starts September 13 at CSC), a surreal play that promises to “lift the veil on the lives of two wealthy American families” in Connecticut. The Atlantic Theater Company production features a dream cast which includes Christine Lahti, Cotter Smith, Katherine Waterston, and the incomparable Reed Birney.

5 for the Day: Robert Montgomery

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5 for the Day: Robert Montgomery
5 for the Day: Robert Montgomery

A reliable film presence of the thirties, Robert Montgomery was locked in a “support the female star” vise at MGM for many years. Mercilessly typecast by his studio, he always seemed to be in the drawing room, mixing cocktails and blandly grinning like the cat who ate the canary; he worked six times with Joan Crawford, five times with Norma Shearer and one miserable time with Garbo in a threadbare picture called Inspiration (1931), where he unaccountably seemed mortified to be in her divine presence. Toward the end of his tenure at the studio, he was allowed to direct a movie, Lady in the Lake (1947), a Raymond Chandler adaptation told entirely with a subjective camera from the point of view of detective Philip Marlowe, and this gimmicky “I am a camera” device was just as silly as Montgomery’s “tough guy” accent as Marlowe. Cast as racketeers in The Earl of Chicago (1940) or Hide-Out (1934), MGM’s glossy idea of gangster pics, Montgomery was not convincing, but have him play a well-dressed, tippling, high class jerk and provide him with some bright remarks, and he would be sure to steal plenty of scenes as a friend with benefits to a straying leading lady.