Due to a combination of the bad economy and a bad review, A Life in the Theater, in which Patrick Stewart had a starring role, has ended five weeks earlier than planned.
“On Sunday at about five o’clock my association with A Life in the Theater ended for all time,” said Stewart. “It was one of those frustrating experiences where audiences who came had a great time but we were unlucky to have a very poor review from The New York Times and that is still a review that can do huge damage to a production. We had many reviews that were really positive but a poor review in The New York Times is harmful.”
A Life in the Theater isn’t the only play that is closing early, according to Stewart. “Broadway seems to be going through an extraordinarily difficult time right now,” said Stewart. “We are being followed immediately by two or three other [productions]. I have heard different numbers but I’ve been told between eight and a dozen Broadway shows are under the axe.
“This is so frustrating for everyone. I discussed this with our producer and this is traditionally one of the best times of year on Broadway in the lead up to the holidays. It is very disappointing that so many shows aren’t doing well. I knew we wouldn’t make it beyond 2 January because that is the worst month in Broadway. To have this happening now. We are in a recession, people are anxious about jobs, pensions, health and theater prices are high. It continues to shock me. We are so fortunate in London; we can see the best of British theater. If you are going to the National Theatre at a very reasonable price. On Broadway you take three people to see a show can you pay $1,000 just for the theater tickets alone.”
According to the review from The New York Times film critic Ben Brantley, “So now what is essentially a series of quick, airy black-out sketches about two actors in repertory has been scaled up for its Broadway debut. This means it has been endowed with an impressive Santo Loquasto set and, more important, a highly recognizable cast of two in Patrick Stewart and T. R. Knight. And in trying to look big, A Life in the Theatre, directed here by Neil Pepe, has never seemed smaller.”
Stewart also came in for criticism from Brantley. “I had difficulty believing in Mr. Stewart as a vain, over-the-hill, lonely actor for whom theater is a religion with its own inviolable rules and rituals,” said Brantley. “Perhaps he needs a booming, heroic classical part to come into his own, but here, in relatively low gear, he seems neither as fragile nor as foolish as he needs to be. Un-self-conscious comedy is evidently not his métier.”
A Life in the Theater had been due to run through January 2, 2011.