In the comfy, tucked-away college town of Williamstown, Mass., where every summer they host a wonderful three-month retreat for actors with some spare time (TV hiatuses, failed Broadway endeavors of the previous season) and theater lovers who want to see quality thesping for half the price of a Rialto ticket, there is a roar this summer where there is usually a purr. On a recent visit, one could not traverse the hilly walkways without hearing someone effusively buzz about The Understudy, Theresa Rebeck’s superb new comedy about Hollywood’s effects on Broadway.
Rebeck seems destined to conquer all entertainment these days, with her TV background (NYPD Blue, Law & Order), a 2007 play that drew comparison to David Mamet (and made EW’s ten-best stage list that year), and even a new book. And this one might, very ironically, have Hollywood a-callin’. It centers on a tic-laden understudy (Reg Rogers) who shadows the B-list Hollywood leading man (Bradley Cooper, left, in a remarkable bit of meta-casting) in a new three-and-a-half-hour Kafka play on Broadway, with a harried, no-nonsense stage manager (3rd Rock From the Sun‘s Kristen Johnston, right) desperately trying to keep up with the beleaguered rehearsal process (and her history with one of the men). The play is like 90 minutes of pure oxygen — and catnip to curious producers. Funny, poignant and surprisingly multi-leveled, The Understudy seems already primed for the Great White Way, and with any luck, its three marvelous stars will get to take the journey there too. (Cooper, especially, should take his cue from the play itself and just become Broadway’s new leading man and fast, it’s shocking to believe this is only his second major play, after his scene-stealing turn opposite Julia Roberts in Three Days of Rain in 2006.)
This is the final weekend at Williamstown, but if my crystal ball is on point, you’ll be seeing it in bright lights very, very soon…
addCredit(“Bradley Cooper and Kristen Johnston: Andy Tew”)