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Off Broadway


Marge Says
by Marjorie Shapiro


Midwinter’s Theater

Thank goodness for January! Finally there’s a chance to catch up with the excellent off-Broadway productions missed in the excitement of the fall season. Luckily, several have been extended either into or through January, giving us the chance to see the best theater in New York City.

The Unexpected Man, is a new play by Yasmina Reza (Art), staring Eileen Atkins and Alan Bates, unquestionably two of the greatest actors today. This is a thought provoking play about a pair of self-absorbed intellectuals. Strangers who have a fleeting opportunity to connect, as they travel in a passenger car of a train going from Paris to Frankfurt. Will they have the courage to seize the moment? We are given a wonderful opportunity to experience brilliant performances, as well as ponder how difficult it is to mature emotionally, even as we grow older and, supposedly, wiser.

The Unexpected Man, playing at the Promenade Theater (Broadway and 76th Street), has extended its run until January 28. Performances are Tues-Sat at 8pm, Wed. & Sat at 2pm, Sun. at 3pm. $60 to $65. Tix by Phone 212-580-1313. Latecomers will not be seated.

Horton Foote’s (Trip to Bountiful) latest play, The Last of the Thorntons, is running at the Signature Theater. With his usual empathy for the human condition and the inevitable aloneness we each will experience as we approach the end of our lives, Mr. Foote takes us to the sad, yet often humorous, world of a nursing home in Harrison, Texas, 1970. In this production, beautifully directed by James Houghton, Estelle Parsons, Hallie Foote, Anne Pitoniak, Alice McLand and Mason Adams weave a spell on the audience that brings both tears and laughter, sometimes at the same time.

The Last of the Thorntons has been extended until January 14th. It is playing at The Peter Norton Space, 555 West 42nd Street, Tues-Sat-8pm, Sat-2pm, Sun.-3pm. Added performances Wed.-2pm. $47.50. 212-244-7529.

On a lighter note, Comic Potential at the Manhattan Theater Club brings us the most adorably loveable android/actoid ever to grace a NYC stage. In a not to be missed performance, Janie Dee plays a human-like robot. The treats come in slapstick bits of business that has the audience roaring with laughter. As far as finding deeper meanings hidden within this play, by Alan Ayckbourn, it’s up to the individual viewer to decide. At an after the play discussion, a member of the audience asked, “What is this play about?” Janie Dee answered that she had proposed the same question to Mr. Ayckbourn who responded, “It’s about a lot of things.” So much for enlightenment. To me it was about a fun evening at the theater.

Comic Potential is playing at City Center Stage, 131 West 55 Street. Extended through January 7. Tues-Sat 8pm, Sun 7pm, Sat and Sun 2:30pm. $55.

Speaking of the question, “What’s it about?”, the ladies room line at the revival of Edward Albee’s intriguing play Tiny Alice became an informal discussion group. Instead of the usual complaints about the shortness of the men’s room line as opposed to the huge length of the ladies, the women were asking each other “Did you understand the play?” One woman claimed there was a website with the explanation and phone numbers were busily being exchanged. With more years going to the theater than I would want to admit, I can truthfully say that I have never experienced this type of exchange in a theater’s ladies room ever. So, if you think you would enjoy stretching your brain into the realm of symbolism, as well as experiencing the brilliant performances of Richard Thomas and Laila Robins, this wonderfully staged, creepy gothic production is well worth your while.

Tiny Alice has been extended through January 7 at the Second Stage, 307 West 43 Street. Tues & Thurs 8pm, Wed 2pm & 7pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun-3pm. $40-$50.

Finally, if you haven’t caught August Wilson’s excellent play, Jitney, you still have until January 28th before it goes on tour. This hugely successful Second Stage production moved to the Union Square Theater from a sold out summer run on 43rd Street. $55. Union Square Theater, 100 East 17th Street. 212-239-6200.

My New Year’s theater wish is that the spring season of 2001 will have as many wonderful off-Broadway productions as the fall season of the year 2000.