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SUMMER TREATS

Two years after first seeing Jez Butterworth’s “Jerusalem” at the Royal Court Theatre in London, I caught up with it again on Broadway, just before its star Mark Rylance won a deserved but hotly contested Tony Award a few weeks back. What I loved about the play in London is still very much in evidence on Broadway, but there are subtle changes in the playing and in the staging that transform this into must-see theatre-going with the epic scope of the greatest works of Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams. This is epic theater at its finest, a seamless masterwork that is simply mesmerizing, featuring a cast consisting of both American and British actors, the Brits from the original cast at the Royal Court, most of them, the Americans cannily hand-picked to blend in handily. The play seems even more greatly steeped in mythology than it did before, indeed, it takes on big themes in the style of ancient Greek classics, including a thunderous conclusion that seems to engage the wrath of the Gods. Rylance continues to give one of the wittiest and most stunningly physical performances I’ve ever had the joy to behold, and he holds the audience in the firm grasp of his hand from the moment he makes his splashy entrance, to the very end, when he brings the audience to its collective feet. This is a performance for the ages, not to be missed, and once again, extended through August here in New York, before returning in triumph once again to the West End in London. If you have yet to book tickets to this amazing play and this amazing production, now is the time, before it crosses back across the pond.

You have plenty of time to book your tickets to the classic, Best Revival Tony winning “Anything Goes” because it has been extended until January 2012, but with cast members already starting to leave for other projects, you should try to see this as soon as you can, in particular, for the smashingly enjoyable, high-octane performance of Sutton Foster, another performer who deservedly won a Tony award a few weeks back. “Anything Goes” is a timeless classic musical, last seen here at Lincoln Center starring Patti LuPone in 1989, this production tops that one, with just one exception. That production had the brilliant character actor Bill McCutcheon playing Moonface Martin, Public Enemy #13, and no one, but no one, will ever top that performance. In my mind, his will be the finest articulation of that character I’ll ever see. In the revival playing currently at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, Joel Grey tries his best and comes close, but never achieves the daffy sincerity and silliness McCutcheon pulled off. But the Roundabout production, with its fabulous Cole Porter score, and its new book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman, is like a shiny, wondrous toy, simply terrific from beginning to end, with those amazing chorus tap dance numbers choreographed by Kathleen Marshall and glorious songs orchestrated to perfection by Michael Gibson and Bill Elliot. And whatta cast they’ve assembled for this one. Sutton Foster creates a brand new kind of Reno Sweeney, svelte and sexy rather than loud and blowzy, an evangelist/nightclub performer who can blow the roof off the joint like nobody’s business. As her soulmate Billy Crocker, Colin Donnell is like a long, refreshing summer cocktail, pulling off a difficult and sometimes near-impossible role (in terms of likability) and creating magic with it. Add to the mix, John McMartin, Adam Godley, Robert Creighton and the impeccable Jessica Stone, and you have the perfect summer refreshment. And if you can’t get tickets now, I’m sure it’s going to just as refreshing in the Fall.

LCT3, as the newest part of Lincoln Center Theatre is called, is now presenting a lovely little play, sure to stir your emotions, called “4000 Miles” at its current home at the Duke on 42nd Street. Its run is terribly short, but fear not, Lincoln Center has decided to bring it back to its main home at the Newhouse for next season. The main reason to catch this, is to thrill in the heartbreaking, smile-inducing performance of theater veteran Mary Louise Wilson, playing a 91 year old activist, still living on her own in her Greenwich Village home, visited by her young grandson after he experiences a shattering tragedy on a cross country bike trip. Gabriel Ebert is a gem as the grandson and their interplay throughout makes this a lovely journey. Mark it on your calendar.