I saw a preview of Exit the King on Wednesday. This Broadway production stars Geoffrey Rush, Susan Sarandon, Lauren Ambrose and the incomparable Andrea Martin, whom I have adored ever since her days on SCTV. They didn't have to bring their Oscars, Emmys and Tonys; their performances were strong, and the play itself, translated and adapted by Rush along with director Neil Armfield, is fierce and funny, as one would expect from Ionesco. It also felt strangely topical - a fun-loving despot neglects his country and brings it to ruin, then doesn't understand when it's time to go.
Rush, making his Broadway debut, was brilliant, and Martin owned the stage whenever she was on it, as she did when I last saw her as Frau Blucher in Young Frankenstein. Ambrose, whom I saw in Awake and Sing a couple of years ago, did well in a thankless role as the king's ingenuous second queen. But Sarandon, a role model for how to continue to look hot as one ages (though her clothing choices at this year's Golden Globes and Oscars could have been more flattering), hadn't been on stage since 1972, and it showed. Though she had great lines as the imperious, cynical first queen, she seemed oddly tentative - and, at play's end, as she encouraged the king to accept death, sounded for all the world like a droning yoga teacher.
By the way, if there is a more beautiful theater on Broadway than the Ethel Barrymore, I haven't been in it.