There was a time when a new Broadway play written by David Mamet and starring Al Pacino would prompt mashing in the parlors and dancing in the streets, but any doubts that such a time has passed have been confirmed by the toxic buzz surrounding China Doll. And even the show’s producers seem aware they’ve got a dog on their hands, pushing back its opening to allow for two more weeks of previews, which is kind of a huge deal.
Here’s why: New York theater critics can’t run reviews of new shows until their official “opening night.” But unlike the review embargos placed on, say, movies and books, audiences can spend weeks buying overpriced tickets to “preview performances” before any reviews have run, which comes in handy if you’ve got a bad play featuring a giant star. China Doll’s preview tickets are currently going for as much as $350, with an average ticket price of $165.94—and the postponement of the opening night from November 19th to December 4th means the un-reviewed show will continue to sell tickets (and, typically, sell them out) to tourists over the Thanksgiving holiday.
And, as Deadline notes, they’re actually bumping opening night two weeks and one day—from a Thursday to a Friday, which means China Doll’s reviews will run on Saturday, when (comparatively speaking) nobody reads the papers. So sounds like they’ve got a lot of confidence in this one!
As well they should; the New York Post’s Michael Riedel (and, y’know, Riedel, but still) reports the show is “a f—king disaster,” thanks to a loopy script, an absentee playwright, and actor struggling so much with his lines they’re being fed to him on a Bluetooth headset, via several on-set teleprompters, and on the screen of the computer he sits behind for much of the show. “Preview audiences are having none of it,” Reidel writes. “The exodus at intermission is practically a stampede, and sources say some have angrily demanded refunds.”
Ah, well. They’ll always have Glengarry Glen Ross.