“Skylight” Opens on Broadway

A Lauded Revival of David Hare’s 1995 Play

skylightOn April 2, 2015, Skylight opened on Broadway at the John Golden Theatre. It had been running in previews since March 13, 2015. This revival of David Hare’s play is directed by Stephen Daldry, who is also helming the vastly successful play The Audience presently running this season. Daldry’s previous Broadway credits include Billy Elliot: The Musical, Via Dolorosa, and An Inspector Calls. This is in addition to his enormous list of British credits, including the previous incarnation of this production of Skylight, which prior to its Broadway run played in the West End’s Wyndham’s Theatre, with the same cast. This three character play stars Carey Mulligan as Kyra Hollis, Bill Nighy as Tom Sergeant, and Matthew Beard as Edward Sergeant. Bill Nighy previously played this same role in the 1997 production of Skylight, which was directed by Richard Eyre at London’s Vaudeville Theatre. Carey Mulligan is a Hollywood star whose recent film credits include The Great Gatsby, Inside Llewyn Davis, Drive, Shame, and Far from the Madding Crowd. This is her second Broadway credit, following The Seagull in 2008, for which she was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play. She was also seen Off-Broadway in 2011 in the New York Theatre Workshop production of Through a Glass Darkly.

Rave Reviews and Tony Nominationsskylight

The show received all around rave reviews from the major publications. Ben Brantley in the New York Times found the dynamic between Mulligan and Nighy to be magnetic, with their performances making their relationship seem meant to be despite the enormous gulf that exists between them in the circumstances of their lives. He also calls the play possibly David Hare’s best work, and definitely his tightest. David Cote in Time Out New York dubbed the play a Critics’ Pick, calling the actors deep-diving and fearless. David Rooney in The Hollywood Reporter deemed Nighy as being in his top form, calling the first act terrific and the entire play riveting. Marilyn Stasio in Variety loved the fierce pas de deux, as she called it, relishing in the dreary portrait of human life at the very bottom of the social ladder. Robert Kahn in NBC New York also loved the play, calling it artfully performed. In addition to critical praise, the play was widely recognized by the Tony nominating committee. It received a remarkable seven Tony Award nominations, beat out by only one straight play in terms of number of nominations (Wolf Hall Parts One and Two received eight). The production was nominated for Best Revival of a Play, Bill Nighy was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Play, Carey Mulligan was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Play, Matthew Beard was nominated for Best Actor in a Featured Role in a Play, Stephen Daldry was nominated for his direction (and interestingly for his play but not for The Audience), Bob Crowley was nominated for his scenic design, and Natasha Katz was nominated for her lighting design.

Ever Increasing at the Box Office

For a straight play, Skylight is not doing badly at the box office. Since the Tony nominations were announced, the figures have been increasing. In the last week of reported box office figures, the week ending May 3, 2015, it brought in $776,373, which represents 90.48% of its gross potential. With a top ticket price of $297.00, the average paid admission was $121.29, and the average audience capacity was 99.8%. That weekly gross is the highest yet, and it may even get higher as word of mouth continues to spread for this gloriously reviewed production.

 

David Hare’s “Skylight” Begins Previews

The Long Road from the National Theatre

Skylight-Broadway-Play-Tickets-176-012814On March 13, 2015, Skylight began previews at Broadway’s John Golden Theatre. It is scheduled to open officially on April 2, 2015, and to run for a limited engagement until June 14, 2015. The play was written by David Hare, and first premiered in 1995, when it was directed by Richard Eyre starring Michael Gambon and Lia Williams. At the time, it opened at the National Theatre’s Cottesloe Theatre, transferred to the West End, and then to Broadway, where it was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play, among other Tony nominations. It had also won the Olivier Award for Best New Play in 1996. Following the Broadway premiere, Skylight returned for another engagement in the West End, this time at the Vaudeville Theatre starring Bill Nighy and Stella Gonet in 1997. In June 2014, a revival of Skylight opened at the Wyndham’s Theatre. That revival was directed by Stephen Daldry, and starred Carey Mulligan alongside Bill Nighy, playing the same part as in 1997. In July 2014, the show was broadcast to cinemas around the world through the National Theatre’s NT Live programme. This helped it gain momentum towards its Broadway run, where it has just begun previews with the same cast as the recent West End revival.

A Promising Start at the Box Officecarey mulligan bill nighy skylight

In the three performances for which box office figures have been thus far reported, Skylight is performing fairly well, although it is not selling out at this stage. Over the course of those three shows, the box office gross was $253,369, which represents 83.59% of its gross potential. With an average paid admission of $105.31, the show’s top ticket price was $248.00, and the audience was at 100.0% capacity. This demonstrates that the show’s producers – Robert Fox and Scott Rudin – have stealthily employed discounting strategies to perfectly fill up the house while maximizing box office grosses. Of course, the expert ticket price strategist Scott Rudin would much prefer not to discount at all, a feat he has managed with an astounding number of his shows, and perhaps as word of mouth spreads, and reviews are eventually published, the production may gain enough traction so as to be able to stop discounting. After all, Carey Mulligan is a big household name, especially with her recent film starring roles such as Daisy in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. Furthermore, the NT Live exhibition of the London production has served as the best advertising a play can ask for, so hopefully ticket sales will continue to increase as the spring weather comes on more strongly.

A Small Play with a Large Message

Skylight is the first of David Hare’s plays to be set wholly in one room. Carey Mulligan plays Kyra Hollis, a schoolteacher in East London who had previously been living with a family by the name of Sargeant. The play has only three characters. At first, Kyra converses with Edward Sargeant (played by Matthew Beard), who was the son of the family she had lived with. It comes out that Kyra had had an affair with Edward’s father Tom, and she had left her living quarters with their family when Tom’s wife had discovered this adultery. Since that time, Edward’s mother has died, and he confronts Kyra about having abandoned him, as he considers to be like a sister to him. Soon, Tom shows up unannounced, and Kyra cooks an entire spaghetti dinner for him onstage. It becomes clear that the future of their relationship depends on whether they can both lay to rest their preconceived opinions of each other.

“A Delicate Balance” Plays Its Final Performance

A Wildly Successful Beginning, Tapering Out

a delicate balanceWhen Glenn Close and John Lithgow began performances in this season’s revival of Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance on October 20, 2014, ticketbuyers sprinted to the box office. When the show opened on November 20, 2014, critics were generally laudatory of the marvelous rendition directed by Pam MacKinnon, arguably the greatest contemporary interpreter of the works of Edward Albee. As such, in the first week of previews, the show brought in $884,596, which represented 102.25% of its gross potential. However, it never made it past the 100% mark in any other week. The next three weeks were also excellent, with the box office reaching in the high 90s of percentage of gross potential, and 100% of audience capacity. Soon, however, sales began to taper off slightly. Between November 18, 2014 and December 14, 2014, the show was still between 88% and 99% of audience capacity; however, percentage of gross potential was slightly lower, between 83% and 94% of the full potential. This shows that the production began to offer a limited number of discounted tickets. Most recently, as the run nears its end, the production has brought in sales in the low 50s of percentage of gross potential. The show plays its last performance on Sunday, February 22, 2015.

An Excellent Production, but a Competitive Seasona delicate balance

It is not clear exactly why the show began with such a strong start, but then lost steam as it continued to play throughout the run. Most likely, the show reached its saturation point with individuals who were particularly excited about Albee, or Glenn Close, or John Lithgow, or the play in particular. After many other shows began performances, some exciting musicals or other plays with big stars in the lead, there just weren’t enough audience members to sustain the packed houses as the winter season kicked in. The two plays that did manage to survive the cold season were It’s Only a Play starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, and The Elephant Man starring Bradley Cooper. However, most other shows remained in the midrange of ticket sales, competing with the regular favorites and mega musicals. In any case, this production can consider itself a success, whether or not it enters profits for its producers (the recoupment information has not been made public). It is an achievement merely to mount such a great dramatic work on Broadway and attract enough audience interest to maintain a fairly healthy commercial run.

“A Delicate Balance” Opens on Broadway

An Albee Masterwork with a Stellar Cast

a delicate balanceOn November 20, 2014, Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance opened at the John Golden Theatre. Directed by Pam MacKinnon (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Clybourne Park), who is known as the greatest contemporary interpreter of Albee’s works, the show has been running since its first preview on October 20, 2014. While Albee himself has solidified his status as a playwrights whose works are worth seeing, the success of this production is also due in no small part to the high stature of the cast. The lead roles of Agnes and Tobias are played by Glenn Close (Sunset Boulevard, The Real Thing) and John Lithgow (The Columnist, All My Sons) respectively, and their daughter Julia is played by Martha Plimpton (Pal Joey, Top Girls). Agnes’ alcoholic yet visionary sister Claire is played by Lindsay Duncan (Private Lives, A Midsummer Night’s Dream), and their surreally dependent friends Harry and Edna are played by Bob Balaban (Speed-the-Plow, The Inspector General) and Clare Higgins (Vincent in Brixton) respectively. In addition to the theatre credits of these actors, their pedigree extends deeply into the world of the screen, with some extremely well-known titles affixed to their names. In this richly profound and relatable play, these actors create an extremely appealing and accessible performance for theatregoers.

An Overall Positive Critical Response

Though not every reviewer was on their hands and knees bowing down to this production, several critics did present huge praise and a delicate balanceothers also saw great merit in the show. David Cote from Time Out New York calls this show a “parlor puzzler,” harking both to its accessibility taking place in the living room as well as its complex intrigue, declared the show full to bursting. Dave Quinn from NBC New York loved the show as well, especially praising Glenn Close’s triumphant return to Broadway after a 20 year hiatus. Charles McNulty of the Los Angeles Times also found the show to be a roaring success, praising the scenic design of Santo Loquasto as well as the richness of the comedic existentialist work. Ben Brantley of the New York Times was less fully sold on the production, agreeing more with critics following the 1966 premiere who were not comfortable declaring this one of Albee’s best works. Furthermore, Terry Teachout of the Wall Street Journal felt that the show is at best thought provoking but is ultimately a bit slow going, and therefore is not one of Albee’s most praiseworthy pieces. Nevertheless, the show did win the Pulitzer Prize following its 1966 production, showing that newspaper critics are not always on exactly the same page as other notable minds in the field.

A Financial Success

In the seven weeks that A Delicate Balance has been running in full eight performance weeks, is has done exceedingly well at the box office. In its first week of previews, the show was more than sold out, bringing in 102.25% of its gross potential with a gross of $884,596. Though it hasn’t done quite as well since, it has never dipped below 83.43% of the gross potential, and generally has been squarely in the 90% range. In the last recorded week – the week ending December 7, 2014 – the show brought in $873,152, representing 94.59% of its gross potential, with a top ticket price of $323.00 and an average paid admission of $143.33. This shows little to no discounting, as theatergoers are flocking to this treat of a play starring some of their favorite actors. In particular, Glenn Close must be a major draw, as she hasn’t performed live on Broadway for two decades. John Lithgow, on the other hand, was seen as recently as 2012 when he starred in The Columnist, which didn’t do quite as well financially.

“A Delicate Balance” Begins Previews on Broadway

Edward Albee’s Pulitzer Prize Winning Drama

a delicate balanceOn October 20, 2014, A Delicate Balance began previews at Broadway’s John Golden Theatre. Written by Edward Albee (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Seascape, The Goat or Who is Sylvia?), A Delicate Balance first premiered on Broadway in 1966, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama the following year. This is the play’s third revival; the second took place in 1996. This production is directed by Pam MacKinnon (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Clybourne Park), who has built her reputation as the preeminent interpreter of the works of Edward Albee. This is her second time producing one of his works on Broadway, but she also directed many Off-Broadway and regional productions of his work, including Peter and Jerry at Second Stage Theatre in 2007, The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? at Houston’s Alley Theatre in 2003, a previous production of A Delicate Balance in 2009 at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., and Occupant at the Signature Theatre in 2008. Edward Albee’s work is frequently performed at the Off-Broadway Signature Theatre, as he is one of the five playwrights honored by being selected in their Residency Five program, through which he will have five productions of his plays over five years.

A Cast Full of Stars

The cast of this Broadway revival of A Delicate Balance includes Glenn Close as Agnes, John Lithgow as her husband Harry, Bob a delicate balance marqueeBalaban and Clare Higgins as their friends Harry and Edna, Lindsay Duncan as Agnes’ alcoholic sister Claire, and Martha Plimpton as Agnes and Tobias’ daughter Julia. Glenn Close is best known for her roles in such films as The Big Chill, 101 Dalmatians, Air Force One, and Dangerous Liaisons, but she has appeared on Broadway several times before in shows such as The Play What I Wrote (2003), Sunset Boulevard (1997), and Death and the Maiden (1992). Similarly, John Lithgow is known for his screen performances including the television show 3rd Rock from the Sun and movies such as Shrek and Rise of Planet of the Apes, but his Broadway credits are also numerous including The Columnist (2012), All My Sons (2008), and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (2005). In fact, all of these actors have been on Broadway before, and some of them many times. This is an example of a show that may be selling its tickets based on the fame of its cast, but the cast is not made up of movie stars trying their hand at Broadway; rather they are tried and true stage performers as much as they are movie stars.

A Brilliant and Surreal Play

The play opens in the home of Agnes and Tobias, a middle age couple who live with Agnes’ alcoholic sister Claire. Their adult daughter Julia has come home after a failed marriage – not her first. Meanwhile, their friends Harry and Edna come over in a state of terror; without explanation, they can no longer bear to live at their own home, and feel inclined to regress back to the womb. They are invited to stay as long as they like as houseguests, which Julia truly resents. Furthermore, Claire may be alcoholic, but at times she seems to have her head on straighter than do any of the others; her insights are often valuable contributions to the story’s progress. In general, Agnes and Tobias fret about the possibility of losing their minds. They drink and discuss their lives, and there is a continual sense of doom approaching – or alternatively, nothing happening at all, which is almost as bad. The play is written with a strong sense of realism, and yet there are surreal moments that creep up completely unexpected. As such, it succeeds in being a chilling and powerful drama that accessibly opens up introspection about the meaning of life.

“Mothers and Sons” To Close on June 22

Terrence McNally’s New Play Stars Tyne Daly

Mothers and Sons, a new play by Terrence McNally, has been running at Broadway’s Golden Theatre since February 23, 2014.  Starring Tyne Daly, a frequent McNally collaborator, this play opened on March 24, 2014 to fairly positive reviews.  The production was directed by Sheryl Kaller (Next Fall), produced by Tom Kirdahy and Roy Furman, and the cast also featured Bobby Steggert, Grayson Taylor, and Frederick Weller.  The play received two Tony Award nominations: Best Play, and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for Tyne Daly.  However, soon after the Tony Awards played out and Mothers and Sons did not win any honors, the announcement was made that the show will close on June 22, 2013, having played 104 performances and 33 previews.

Mothers and Sons Broadway Show tyne daly

Mothers and Sons Broadway Show

Next Season, McNally Returns with “It’s Only a Play”

McNally is one of the few living playwrights whose work has proved the test of time, with his new plays still consistently being produced on Broadway, irrespective of their star power or recognizable brand titles.  Mothers and Sons is McNally’s 20th Broadway show, marking the 50 year anniversary of his work being shown on Broadway.  This is by no means the end of his streak, however, as next season his play It’s Only a Play will be revived starring Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Stockard Channing, F. Murray Abraham, Megan Mullally, and Micah Stock.  Directed by Jack O’Brien, that new production will begin previews in the fall at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, with an opening night set for October 9, 2014.  That is sure to be an exciting production, as it will reunite Lane and Broderick who co-starred in the celebrated 2001 Broadway hit The Producers, not to mention the rest of its stupendous cast and creative team.

Financial Woes

Mothers and Sons has been struggling financially for some time, never earning much more than 30% of its gross potential since it began performances.  With an average ticket price around $65, the production has been offering heavy discounts throughout its run.  In the week ending June 8, 2014, the show only grossed $197,920, which is only 25.79% of its gross potential, and it filled up to only 43.9% of its audience capacity.  It must have been holding out for the Tony Awards, and when it did not win any, it cut its losses and announced closing.

Critical Performance

Like many of McNally’s plays, Mothers and Sons deals with concepts of homosexuality and AIDS.  It is the story of Katharine Gerard (played by Tyne Daly), who lost her son to AIDS 20 years ago, and now decides to visit her son’s partner Cal (Frederick Weller), who has since married a man named Will (Bobby Steggert).  Ben Brantley of The New York Times was lukewarm in his review, opining that the play’s intellectual debate overshadowed its emotional effects.  Still, he commended Tyne Daly’s performance and the production for the unstated sorrow beneath the words.  Other reviewers, such as NBC New York, Time Out New York, and the Associated Press, all gave more positive reviews.  Still, the play was unable to compete in this difficult marketplace against much more crowd-pleasing titles.  Perhaps the next McNally show will fare better.