The Week in Theater: The Return of Uncle Jesse

John Stamos returns to the Great White Way, a new Neil LaBute debuts there, Tovah Feldshuh's back, as is Joanna Gleason in Happiness. Plus, the news from out of town.

  • When I saw Neil LaBute's reasons to be pretty Off Broadway last year, I thought it was just all right. Pablo Schreiber and Allison Pill were great, as always, but everything else felt a bit flat. Well now Ben Brantley loves a new non-Pill, non-Schreiber production of the play that's just opened, sans big long monologues, on Broadway. Go figure.
  • Also getting good notices in midtown this week were Tovah Feldshuh's performance in Irena's Vow, despite a not-so-great production, and Theater for a New Audience's Hamlet. It's the company's second Shakespeare production this year to earn a flat-out rave in the Times.
  • Speaking of raves, Brantley slobbered all over the Public's Hair revival, moved indoors after its successful run in the park last summer. It's a talented young cast, for sure, but being lectured for an hour and a half about Vietnam by kids born in 1990 came across, to me, as nothing short of smug.
  • Unfortunately Happiness, the new musical from the Grey Gardens team at Lincoln Center, sounds less than a delight.
  • Tonight, after the regularly scheduled 4pm and 8pm performances of Sleepwalk With Me, the show's star will be sitting down for a talk back with This American Life host Ira Glass. Then he'll be recording a new story for the occasion, to be aired on the Showtime show. Sleepwalk is supposed to be great anyway, so now there's added incentive to make the trip. You can go see Fast & Furious any other time, after all.
  • The Times has a nice profile of Roslyn Hart and Nick Chase's weirdo one-woman cabaret comedy act, Shells. She has a show this Sunday, as always at Joe's Pub.
  • John Stamos (How to Succeed In Business...), Gina Gershon, and Bill Irwin have been announced as the cast for the Roundabout's Bye Bye Birdie revival. All three have respectable stage chops (Gershon could actually carry a tune when I saw her in Cabaret), so that sounds promising. The all-important roles of Kim and Conrad have not yet been cast. Zac Efron!!!
  • A documentary about the New York production of the terrific rock concert/musical/travelogue Passing Strange will receive a screening at the Tribeca Film Festival.
  • Across the pond, Gillian Anderson and Christopher Eccleston are set to appear in the Donmar Warehouse's upcoming production of A Doll's House. Scully as Nora? I want to go to there.
  • In regional news: The Lyric in Boston's production of Speech & Debate was well received, and makes me wish even more that I'd seen the play when it was here in New York. Also, the ART's Trojan Barbie opened, and Milford High School will be the first school in the region to put on Rent: School Edition.. In Chicago a new production of Twelfth Night at Chicago Shakespeare will feature a big swimming pool. Meanwhile you'd probably rather soak your head than sit through Silk Road Theatre Project's Pangs of the Messiah, which Hedy Weiss calls "painful." And in LA, The Manchurian Candidate at the Chandler sounds like an intriguing misfire.