Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Woody Allen Play Opening Is A Hit with A List Audience


The trio of one act plays called “Relatively Speaking” is a hit–opening last night on Broadway with contributions from Woody Allen, Elaine May, and Ethan Coen. And it’s really a hit– sold out, funny, and in demand despite efforts by the New York Post’s theater columnist to kill it or cause trouble. Marlo Thomas is beyond wonderful in Elaine May‘s “George Is Dead.”

And Woody’s cast — with Steve Guttenberg knocking it out of the park, and appearances by Woody all stars like Julie Kavner and Caroline Aaron, not to mention Grant Shaud (Miles from “Murphy Brown”), Richard Libertini and Mark Linn Baker  — had em rolling in the aisles. You know a Broadway opening is big if both Liz Smith and Cindy Adams are in the audience. Not only that, but two of Woody’s famous leading men–Tony Roberts and Michael Murphy–showed up, as well as Richard Kind, Phil Donahue (Marlo’s hubby), Joel Coen and Frances McDormand, Jeannie Berlin (Elaine’s actress daughter), Angela Lansbury, director Doug McGrath (who co-wrote “Manhattan Murder Mystery) and Marshall Brickman (co-author of “Annie Hall”), Kathy Griffin, and so on.

Woody and wife Soon Yi didn’t sit through the show, but they were at the after party at Bryant Park Grill where Woody quizzed Kavner on the evening. He’s been giving “notes” and stage directions to the actors after every performance, fine tuning “Honeymoon Hotel.” It plays a like a scene out of the Marx Brothers’ “A Night at the Opera,” with characters pouring into a tacky roadside motel room.

Before the curtain went up: Ethan Coen paced around at the top of the aisle. “Are you nervous?” I asked. He could barely move his facial muscles. “You once put a man in a wood chipper,” I said. “Relax.” His “Talking Cure,” opens the night, and is less “shticky” than the other plays. It is extremely funny, with Jason Kravits (of “Boston Legal”) and the exceptional Danny Hoch going at it as a prison inmate and his shrink.

At intermission: Phil Donahue mixed and mingled. By then, Marlo had already done her star turn. Her character is a riot, and must be seen. At one point, the character is watching TV through the night and several TV theme songs are played–“Dick van Dyke,” “Andy Griffith Show”– alas, no “That Girl.” Jus to see Marlo as a bewilderingly wealthy woman child try to stuff a pillow into a pillow case without the help of her nanny is worth the whole night.

I asked Woody how he felt about “Midnight in Paris” being such a huge hit. “You don’t know. There were plenty of the films that I thought would do well, and didn’t.” He is genuinely perplexed, but grateful.

Julie Kavner, on a break from “The Simpsons,” said, “He’s having a great time.” She should know–she’s been in several of Woody’s films including “Alice” and “New York Stories.”

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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