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The Heiress

Henry James was a great writer, but let's face it, a bit draggy for the TV Generation. This stage adaption of Washington Square was great in 1947. The 1949 movie collected a slew of Academy Awards. This revival is great, far better than the movie, for example.

Hollywood couldn't resist casting the beautiful Olivia de Havilland as the ugly, awkward rich girl. They also couldn't resist dragging everyone on the payroll out into a big ballroom scene. The play stays in the doctor's drawing room and is much more intense, much harder to watch. The father is much crueller, the daughter's plight more searing, the daughter's eventual triumph more bitter and empty. Broadway at its best.

Cort Theatre, 138 W. 48th St., 239-6200.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Well worth $150 if you've had to suffer fools in the management of a large corporation (which haven't changed since 1961, when the show first ran). You'll cry when the secretary sings "Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm", about her aspirations to be a neglected housewife in New Rochelle. Matthew Broderick is excellent.

Richard Rodgers Theatre, 226 W. 46th St., 307-4100


All the New York financial types loves Tom Stoppard's latest because it seems so scientific. That's just because the standard of science education is so low in this country. You can be completely uneducated by MIT standards and still make $250,000/year. Despite what seem to a moderately technically educated person to be rather shallow observations on the world of chaos, Arcadia is worthwhile because of its lampooning of academic historians. You'll die laughing as an Oxford don tries to reconstruct the events of 200 years ago in an English country house, because you've seen the originals as the play jumps back and forth in time.

Light entertainment, worth $40. Just don't trot off to a CalTech party hoping to sound profound.

Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center, 150 W. 65th St. 239-6200.

The Food Chain

My friend Ben did the sound for the show. "Nobody ever talks about the sound in the reviews," he observed, "except to say that it was too loud or too soft." The reviewers loved this show. Ben's girlfriend hated it, even though she got in free.

Nicky Silver's script has a few rough spots. It is tough to believe 100% in the spoiled poetess who opens the first act, but afterwards one is carried away by the black comedy and the believably insane characters. The Jewish mother is my favorite character. Asked to justify her qualifications to counsel hotline callers, she answers "when you're been snailed up on the kitchen floor, believe me, that's as low as a human being can get. I pulled myself up by my bootstraps after that. Those are my qualifications."

Westside Theatre, 407 W. 43rd St., 307-4100

Some to avoid at all costs...

Miss Saigon

If you haven't seen Madame Butterfly, you'll say "what an original story!" If you have seen Madame Butterfly, one quarter way through, you'll say "this seems vaguely familiar." Three quarters of the way through, you'll say "almost exactly like Madame Butterfly". At the end, you'll say "What a cheap ripoff!"

Some to see when they come around next time

Three Tall Women

OK, with a Pulitzer Prize for Best Play, Edward Albee doesn't need an MIT nerd to say this was a good play. Still, it has the bite of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf with more of the richness and texture and variety of life.