Part 2: The 2017-18 Season – The Dramas
By Barbara & Scott Siegel
Like this season’s Broadway musical revivals, as detailed in our last column, the Broadway play revivals of this season are the dominating productions of the year. Simply put the Broadway season’s dramatic high points aren’t provocative and exciting NEW plays, but rather provocative and exciting revivals — in fact, they exceed the greatness of their originals. We have in mind the sensational Broadway revivals of Angels in America, Travesties, and Three Tall Women.
Unlike this season’s new musicals, however, there have been some powerful new Broadway dramas, as well, most notably the two-part Harry Potter And The Cursed Child. It may not be serious fare, but this Potter play offers the most awe-inspiring stage-craft you are ever likely to see on a Broadway stage. It is a truly elegant, beautifully detailed, acted, choreographed, and directed new show on Broadway. This show represents “the magic of the theater” in all its many meanings.
But the power of the theater is on its fullest and most persuasive display Off Broadway in a season full of great new plays, the most impressive being the Lincoln Center production of Admissions at the Mitzi Newhouse Theater. Admissions is political play that is one of the rare shows in New York City that doesn’t preach to the choir; instead, it examines the issues of racial fairness with a brutal, unsparing eye for all concerned. The smug white liberal elites get a shot across the bow in this powerful, uncompromising play that includes a ferocious rant/monologue by actor Ben Edeleman as a young man expressing his frustration and anger at being denied admission to Yale while his friend, who is half black, but a lesser student, got in. It isn’t his whining that nails the issue, it’s his piercing observation that while he has to make way for people of color, the higher ups, like his Admission Director mother and school administrator father, the people that make the rules, who never have to make way for people of color, themselves.
It’s more than worth noting, though, that even in a season with dramatic extravaganzas both old (Angels in America) and new (Harry Potter…), two of the most galvanizing and exciting theatrical experiences were both one person shows: Sharon Washington’s uplifting and heartwarming personal story, Feeding the Dragon at The Cherry Lane, and the tour de force Harry Clarke by David Cale and starring Billy Crudup. The extraordinary theatricality of both of these shows come courtesy of those two elements that make the theater so particularly exciting: great language and great actors who know how to make that language work.
Those who give a thumbs down to this season are likely only thinking about the dearth of great new musicals, not the wealth of bright, entertaining dramas that have largely flourished on Broadway’s doorstep.
Our third of three columns that look back on the 2017-18 season will be devoted to the theater companies that have anchored and enriched these past 12 months. Look for it next week…