Culture Magazine

It's Only A Play Reality Index

By Pataphysicalsci
It's Only A Play Reality Index
Today is the last day to see Nathan Lane, Megan Mullally, and Rupert Grint in It's Only A Play. Martin Short, Katie Finneran, and Maulik Pancholy join the cast on January 7. So in honor of the last day of the original Broadway cast, I decided to put together a brief reality index, as NineDaves and I used to do for Smash (R.I.P.).
I was reminded of Smash because It's Only A Play takes place at the opening night party of a Broadway play as the producer, playwright, lead actress, and director wait for the reviews to come in. I can suspend my disbelief at a show, but if it's about the theater industry, it shouldn't be too hard to get the details right. Terrence McNally seems concerned with getting as many laughs as possible and because of that, there are moments that ring false. I get that sometimes humor comes at the expense of accuracy, but it's not really worth it for a joke that's obvious or old.
Some spoilers follow, though there aren't many surprises in the play anyway. It's a little more difficult to do this for theater than a TV show since I can't go back and watch scenes again, so I'm sure I forgot things. Let me know in the comments if I left anything out.
Totally True 
  • It gets all the names right, like Ben Brantley is the chief theater critic of The New York Times and Bob Wankel is the president of the Shubert Organization, so maybe audience members who aren't too familiar with theater will learn something and that's not a bad thing.
  • Megan Mullally's character, Julia Budder, is the producer and she remarks that she is so happy to no longer be one of the "anonymous herd of investors who call themselves producers." It's true that anyone who puts money into a show calls him or herself a producer. 
  • After the reviews come out, Bob Wankel calls Julia to talk about closing the show. Bad reviews could mean that the theater owners would try to get a new play in there fast. That's what happened with Side Show.
  • There is a rumor of a Broadway revival of The Music Man starring Audra McDonald. This probably isn't going to happen, so I guess it should go in the other column, but I'd see that.
  • There is a line about up-and-coming playwrights, which is really long and includes many playwrights who have already made it. But up-and-coming often just means young, so this is accurate.
  • This doesn't have anything to do with realism, but bonus points for introducing Micah Stock as the coat check boy Gus. He and Lane get the most laughs and his performance of a popular showtune is the highlight of the show.
Oh Hell No!
  • Why is the opening night party at the producer's apartment? Sure, it's a good a way to get a nice, ornate set (thanks to Scott Pask) that doesn't need to move (which is actually commented on in the play), but wouldn't it make more sense to have it at Glass House Tavern or something? Or the Marriott Marquis, where the actual It's Only a Play party was held?
  • I don't care who is involved with a show, there would never be that many celebrities at an opening night party. Lady Gaga? Hillary Clinton? The Pope?
  • A running gag is that Gus brings coats into the bedroom, declaring who just arrived at the party. For example, he announces the cast of The Lion King while carrying African clothing and the cast of Rock of Ages with leather garb. Actors don't wear their costumes out of the show. This bothered me every time and is the main reason I wanted to do this reality index. Though I did laugh out loud when he brought in what looked like a jacket for a baby and announced Daniel Radcliffe's arrival.
  • F. Murray Abraham plays a critic named Ira Drew, who is reviewing the show. He would not be at the opening night party, let alone listening to the others read Brantley's review when he hasn't even written his own yet.
  • There is a joke about kids throwing snowballs outside and that it's the cast of Matilda because no one can understand what they are saying. I'm sure those professional actors would not be throwing snowballs and they wouldn't be speaking in British accents outside the show.
  • And while we're on the subject, though sometimes casts do go to opening nights together, every cast of every Broadway show would not be there. 
  • The character James Wicker, an actor on a popular television show, is played by Nathan Lane has a line about liking The Addams Family and another about Nathan Lane. How can Nathan Lane exist in a world in which Nathan Lane is playing another character?
  • Characters talk about how successful Wicked is and also talk about how a show that gets a bad review in The New York Times can't run. You know what got a bad review in the Times? Wicked. It just seems lazy not to mention that.
  • Jokes about James Franco's Instagram scandal and Shia LaBeouf's Cabaret incident are true, but they already feel tired. And Jeremy Piven? What is this, 2008?

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