Winter on Broadway

Although winter months are traditionally a hibernation period for Broadway, this January and February have seen a few inviting openings, even though some hopefuls fell prey to apathetic responses and low grosses (Chinglish, Bonnie & Clyde, Relatively Speaking, Lysistrata Jones). Perhaps with the holidays out of the way, audiences will brave the cold for such stars as Cynthia Nixon and Rosemary Harris and playwriting luminaries like Athol Fugard and David Ives.

Actually, Ives, of All in the Timing fame, has already succeeded this season with his psycho-sexual comedy, Venus in Fur, about an auditioning actress turning the tables on a demanding director. So well received was the play, especially its star turn by Nina Arianda, that when Manhattan Theatre Club had to end the show’s limited run at their Samuel J. Friedman Theatre to make room for another production (see below), the company decided to move Venus to Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre, where it reopens February 7.

Also expected this month, though a theater has yet to be announced, is a new sports play from Eric Simonson, who gave Broadway the surprise hit Lombardi. This time, the Chicago-based scribe tackles two basketball legends, the Lakers’ Magic Johnson and the Celtics’ Larry Bird in the aptly titled, Magic/Bird.

From these paragons of health and physical activity, Broadway will then move to a brainiac who copes with the worst ravages of illness. Wit, which won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, makes its Broadway debut at Manhattan Theatre Club’s aforementioned Friedman Theatre, with Sex and the City’s Cynthia Nixon playing the English professor laid low by fourth-stage ovarian cancer.

Meanwhile, at the American Airlines Theatre, the Roundabout is reviving another off-Broadway drama, The Road to Mecca, by celebrated South African author Athol Fugard. Penned during the last gasp of the apartheid years, Mecca tells the true story of an independent elderly woman (Harris) who refuses to let racist social mores inhibit her life or her art. Jim Dale and Carla Gugino also star.

Finally, from the potentially sublime we move to…well…

Appearing in his first Broadway show since 1962 will be none other than Denny Crane, the dad in Sh*t My Dad Says, the host of Rescue 911, the original Twilight Zone guy who sees the gremlin on the plane wing, the warbler who unforgettably sang (sort of) “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and, of course, Captain James T. Kirk—yes, none other than 80-year-old William Shatner will bring his one-man touring show, Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It, to Broadway’s Music Box Theatre.

I’m too much in awe to add anything but random lines from parodies of the Rolling Stones’ “Shattered”:

Even with all my success it’s only Trek and Trek and Trek and look at me! I’m in tatters!

Friends so bitter sounding and my lover had a drowning . . .

Don’t you know my hairline’s going up, up, up, up, UP? Look at me! I’m Shatner Shatner.

Yes, by God, Shatner Shatner.