Could this new play’s NY debut be the start of a trend?

A press release wound its way into my inbox a few weeks ago, trumpeting the NY debut of a brand new play by a Pulitzer (!) and Tony Award-winning playwright and featuring some nice Hollywood names in the cast.

“I wonder what Broadway theater they’re playing,” I muttered as I read the release.

And then I realized they weren’t playing Broadway at all.

“I wonder what high-fallutin’ non-profit theater they’re playing,” I said, coming to what could only be the next logical convention of how this new play would land in New York.

And then I realized they weren’t playing a non-profit either.

Nope.  Building The Wall, the brand new, super timely, already-rave-reviewed new play by Robert Schenkkan (All The Way, Hacksaw Ridge), starring James Badge Dale (“The Pacific,” The Departed) and everyone’s favorite forensic detective Tamara Tunie (“Law and Order: SVU”) will open at a commercial (!) Off Broadway theater this summer for a strictly limited engagement of 10 weeks only.

The play, which was written as a response to the current administration, has already started rolling out around the country.  It’s obvious that the super smart strategy by the author, the author’s agents, and the producers, was to get the play out in the world as fast as possible, to as many theaters as possible.

And with the current real estate crisis on Broadway, with no theaters available on a moment’s notice, and with non-profits planning their seasons years in advance there was only one option left to satisfy that strategy.

Commercial Off Broadway.

I have been touting the theory that Off Broadway might boom as a result of the real estate crunch for awhile now, and I’m happy to see the first real example of it happening with Building The Wall.  When A-list creative teams and A-list actors start showing up Off Broadway again just to do great work, audiences will follow.

And commercial Off Broadway just might wake up from the coma it’s been in for the last decade or so.

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