NEW YORK (Reuters) - "It's only a Play," the latest revival of Terrence McNally's show business comedy is packed with plenty of timely jokes, wise cracks and a stellar cast but Broadway veteran Nathan Lane is the undoubted star of the show.
The ensemble play, which opened on Thursday night for a limited Broadway run, is set at the opening night party of a new show, "The Golden Egg," as its producer, playwright, cast and friends wait for the reviews.
Tony winner Lane ("The Producers") is television star James Wicker, the best friend of the playwright Peter Austin, played by Matthew Broderick ("How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying."
The New York Times described the play as a "deliriously dishy revival" and USA Today called it "fierce, frequently uproarious." But the New York Post said even its contemporary quips about actors and celebrities "can't hide its creaky bones and sagging spirit."
But critics were unanimous in their praise for Lane.
"Clown prince Lane nimbly nails the role," said the New York Daily News, adding it was tailored for what Lane does best.
"As always ... it's Lane we marvel at," said USA Today, "Lane whips the audience into fits of laughter from the moment James enters promptly dialing his Hollywood agent to wax snarky about his buddy's show."
The Hollywood Reporter agreed, saying despite the all-star ensemble cast, it is Lane who does the heavy lifting "with his mastery of the delayed double take, the arched eyebrow, the wry aside."
Lane heads a cast that includes British actor Rupert Grint, best known as wizard Ron Weasley in the "Harry Potter" franchise, making his Broadway debut as the play's wunderkind director Frank Finger in a garish suit.
Tony winner Stockard Channing ("A Day in the Life of Joe Egg") is the show's pill-popping, erratic leading actress, Virginia Noyes, and Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham ("Amadeus") is snarky drama critic Ira Drew.
Megan Mullally, an Emmy winner for the hit TV show "Will & Grace" is the play's zany, daffy producer, Julia Budder, and newcomer Micah Stock plays a naive coat check attendant.
The New York Times said Lane and Channing give the show "a sheen and a heart it might otherwise lack."
"But all the cast members fulfill their raisons d’être, which is to sling a whole lot of mud in the nicest possible way," it added.
Multiple Tony-winning playwright McNally ("Ragtime," "Master Class") updated his 1986 play to make it more relevant to today's audiences.
References to actors, singers, television stars, the Pope, Hillary Clinton and even New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley are sprinkled throughout the play.
"McNally stuffs every scene with digs at Broadway and its denizens — James Franco's sexting, Alec Baldwin's hot temper, Shia LaBeouf's erratic behavior, Harvey Fierstein's masculinity — a large proportion of which are pretty darn hilarious," said The Hollywood Reporter.
The play already looks like a hit, grossing nearly $800,000 for it first five previews, according to box office figures.
(Editing by David Gregorio)