A new star-studded production of "It's Only A Play," a backstage satire penned by 4 time tony winning writer Terrence McNally, has debuted on Broadway. Time Out New York's David Cote filed the following review for NY1.
For about fifty years Terrence McNally has made us laugh and think in plays that touch on the gay and straight experience. The master playwright has more than paid his dues. And now he wants us to pay. In his satire "It’s Only a Play," he skewers showbiz phonies and morons. And that’s just the theater critics.
Last produced Off Broadway by Manhattan Theatre Club 29 years ago, this campy comedy probably earned its laughs on a smaller, cattier scale. But pumped up to fill the Gerald Schoenfeld, with miscast celebrities and a revised script crammed with topical references, the satire sags.
We’re in a wealthy producer’s boudoir awaiting opening-night reviews. Nathan Lane is in fine form as Jimmy Wicker, a stage actor who found success on TV, afraid to tell his playwright friend Peter what he really thought. F. Murray Abraham is appropriately sleazy as a critic who’s alternately ingratiating and arrogant, but Rupert Grint flounders manically as a pampered British director hungry for a bad review.
Megan Mullally does what she can with a clueless producer who mangles truisms, and Stockard Channing is strangely frozen and stiff as a bitter, drug-addled ex-star. Then there’s Matthew Broderick as the hopeful then disillusioned Peter. Broderick turns in yet another chirpy, robotic performance, the umpteenth iteration of his mousy turn as Leopold Bloom. The audience seems to eat it up but his performance doesn’t connect with the character or the play, and it sucks the life out of the room.
Jack O’Brien’s shiny, bouncy production looks great and hey it’s McNally: there are good bitchy one-liners here and there. But too few. Only a play? It’s barely a play.