Only a Play celebrates the best of Broadway

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It’s Only a Play made its Broadway debut this past August and features an updated script by playwright Terrence McNally. The all-star cast is led by Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, also featuring Megan Mullally, F. Murray Abraham, Stockhard Channing, Rupert Grint, and newcomer Micah Stock. The play is set at a party held by producer Julia Budder (Mullally) to celebrate the opening of playwright Peter Austin’s (Broderick) new show, as the cast anxiously awaits the first reviews.

The show is chock-full of Broadway in-jokes, which are hilarious – if you actually get them. While theatre geeks will appreciate this show as a love letter to modern Broadway, those new to theatre may be left scratching their heads at references to other Broadway stars, shows, and online message boards known for spreading gossip. Some jokes fly by so quickly that even seasoned theatregoers may not have time to process them.

Matthew Broderick is surprisingly weak as Peter Austin, the character connecting everyone to each other. His halfhearted, quiet performance makes Peter seem too self-absorbed to be likable but not narcissistic enough to be funny. Nathan Lane carries the show as James Wicker, an actor and Peter’s best friend, and commands the audience’s attention like no one else in the cast. The supporting players each get their own moments to shine, and they seize them. The characters are believable and engaging, and these actors work together well on stage. Stock’s performance as the starstruck waiter Gus is up to par with that of the Broadway vets alongside him, and his awkward, serious performance of “Defying Gravity” from Wicked is one of the play’s best moments.

The play is set entirely in Julia’s bedroom, featuring marbled white walls and silver and white accents. It’s simple, modern, and allows the actors to maintain control of the environment. The show doesn’t make use of many technical tricks, nor does it need to. Rather, it relies more on exposition than visuals, but doesn’t suffer because of it.

This will certainly please diehard Broadway fans.With biting wit and a stellar cast, this show has been crafted by theatre geeks for theatre geeks and will likely earn a few Tony nominations. Catch it at the Schoenfeld Theater through January 4.