A quick drop with an update about the next two episodes, featuring the backdrop on Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and the musical Come From Away — two acclaimed productions now on hold because of the coronavirus. And why that’s a shame, considering what each has to say about why there’s no need to panic.
The Play That Goes Wrong is a great play about bad theater. Kevin says it’s also one of the best plays, comedy or drama, to hit Broadway in the past decade. In part one, he interviewed creator and original cast member Henry Lewis (of Mischief Theatre), and actors Matt Harrington and Matt Walker, to figure out just how it packed so many laughs in a simple premise. Here in part two, Kevin gets the full backdrop from New York Times comedy critic Jason Zinoman (author of a bestselling book on David Letterman, Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night) on what the success of this play says about the current state of Broadway.
“The war is coming, dude.” So says a central character in one of the most talked about plays of the year. Is she right? Could be, who knows. But if a civil war returns, Will Arbery is undoubtedly the right playwright to spin our basest impulses into high art. In this “backdrop eavesdrop,” Kevin and Will speak one-on-one only days after Will’s play Heroes of the Fourth Turning landed on a heap of ’top 10’ lists in 2019. They talk empathy, writing anxiety, and the obstacles in offering a political play in hyper-political times.
Samuel D. Hunter is the MacArthur genius award-winning playwright who may have started small — as a teenager growing up in Idaho — but has since assembled a deep roster of plays set there. And that’s the point: small towns, all the better to explore big ideas. A Bright New Boise, Lewiston/Clarkston, Pocatello. For his latest, Greater Clements, he mines new territory, and he says it’s both his most personal and his most ambitious attempt yet.
Harry Townsend’s Last Stand is a comedy about what could be tragedy — the decline of a man beyond his prime, and the struggle of a son to connect with his fading father. Written by playwright George Eastman, it hits close to home for Kevin, who interviews — and laughs along with — Broadway legend and Tony winner Len Cariou and his co-star, Tony nominee Craig Bierko, and gets vital and timely advice about caretaking from AARP’s caregiving expert, Amy Goyer.
The Play That Goes Wrong is a comedy about a mystery. It was also a huge hit — during its run, it became the longest-running play on Broadway. Kevin has a mystery he needs solved: the mystery of why he has seen it seven times. To solve that whodunnit, Kevin interrogates creator and original cast member Henry Lewis, actors Matt Harrington and Matt Walker, even the comedy critic for the New York Times (Jason Zinoman) — who, it must be said, has only seen it twice.