From left: Seth Numrich (photo by Paul Kolnik); Billy Magnussen (photo by T. Charles Erickson); Sebastian Stan (photo by Joan Marcus)
There was a time in the not-too-distant past that you had to look to Off-Broadway or Off-Broadway to get your skin fix. (Of course, we don't want to overlook the heyday when Hair and Oh, Calcutta offered entertainment in the buff.) These days, the hordes of Broadway tourists seemed content with easy entertainment tricks than edgy fare. While we have yet to see anything like a balls-to-the-wall sex romp of the sort that Thomas Bradshaw takes such considerable pleasure in, Broadway seems to have decided that the trumped up Christian offerings have so decidedly failed, and everyone wants a little more skin. But—GASP!—it happens to be of the male variety. Here are three current shows that have plenty of man meat—and how the productions stack up against each other.
Star: Seth Numrich
Gist: A talented second-generation immigrant could have been a violin virtuoso but instead becomes a boxer for the money and glamorous lifestyle. Playwright Clifford Odets was heavy-handed on the dialog (it's the 1930s!), which can be strident most of the time (not that it kept us from loving Lorna Moon (Yvonne Strahovski) and wanting more of her New Jersey tramp lines), but director Bartlett Sher find beauty in the mothballed piece and creates a genius production that trumps his earlier interpretation of Awake and Sing!
Big Reveal: Seth has always been a looker (you might remember him from War Horse or his gay role in the indie flick Private Romeo), but he's beefed up for this role and actually be training in the ring. But it's some of the extra's
Worth It? A naked fighter takes a shower on stage? Yes, it might distract for a minute, but it's a great peekaboo moment.
Until: The show is currently playing at the Belasco Theatre (111 W. 44th St.) through January 20 (but hopefully extended!).
Star: Billy Magnussen
Gist: Christopher Durang is at his best when he's thwarting realistic theater conventions by combining camp with stinging social critques as he did with Sister Mary Ignatius..., The Marriage of Bette and Boo, or even his latest Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them. While the stars Sigourney Weaver and David Hyde Pierce may be the big draw, it's the other actors, including the always enjoyable Kristine Nielsen (her Maggie Smith impression should be on YouTube!) who keep the play from sinking under its own weight. A lot is riding on Pierce's big second act monologue, but it comes off as an aging generation's sour grapes more than anything overly profound.
Big Reveal: Magnussen strips and preens most of the show. But after he returns to the small stage after "taking a swim" in a duck pond, dressed only in his boxer briefs, it definitely turns up the heat.
Worth It? Only if you're a Durang completist (as I am). But Magnussen's go-go good looks aren't worth the ticket price alone.
Until: Now through January 20 only at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center.
Star: Sebastian Stan
Gist: William Inge's classic play involves Madge (Maggie Grace), the prettiest girl in a small Kansas town whose life is wrecked (or saved, depending on how you view it) when a stud named Hal Carter (Sebastian Stan) arrives. Although that's the central plot, don't overlook Elizabeth Marvel's incredible turn as old maid school teacher Rosemary Sydney or Ellen Burstyn as neighbor Mrs. Potts or Mare Winningham as Flo Owens. While the timing and acting can seem clunky at points, the final scenes prove why the play endures.
Big Reveal: Sebastian Stan (who we recently saw him as Sigourney Weaver's gay son on Political Animals) strides, shirtless and glistening, as if he owns the place. The fact that his chest (and armpits) are smoothly shaven seems a bit much. But it's impossible to take your eyes off him.
Worth It? Stan stays nearly naked for nearly two hours. Just make sure you take your eyes off him and watch the other actors.
Until: The play officially opens at the American Airlines Theatre January 13 and has an expected run through February 24.