[AFP] Broadway waits for fall, but New York’s oldest play is already back

On the bill since 1987, the doyenne of the plays of New York, “Perfect Crime”, is already back on the boards, ahead of Broadway which will wait until September. She owes it to the energy of Catherine Russell, who has played the same role more than 13,500 times and carries her theater at arm’s length.

“I’m very determined and when people tell me: you can’t do that. I tell them, + Go and show you. Watch me do +.”
Main actress of “Perfect Crime”, but also manager of the Theater Center where the play is played, lean physique, long blond hair, Catherine Russell, 65, is “a dynamo”, as described by Charles Geyer, who shares the stage with her. “I can do 180 push-ups in a row,” she says.
When it was necessary to suspend the performances due to a pandemic, in March 2020, the actress to do everything did not have any moods. She took care of repainting the theater, repairing a few armchairs and buying a “Covid-compatible” ventilation system.

But “when I saw that the bowling alleys were reopening (end of August), I said to myself: it’s crazy”. Neither one nor two, she sued New York City to get the theaters reopened. The governor has, since the beginning of March, authorized a reopening at 25% of capacity, then 33%, but Catherine Russell continues her action to obtain at least 50%.
On April 9, she reopened the Theater Center, with first performances of a musical inspired by the series “The Office”, then the cover of “Perfect Crime”, which she performed on April 17 for the 13.524th times, world record.

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“A lot of people didn’t feel ready” both on Broadway and off-Broadway, the small-gauge theater circuit, explains Catherine Russell. “But I thought we were ready. (…) I don’t think I’m a Girl Scout. Maybe I’m just a little less scared than others, but I also have less to lose. I’m a little off-Broadway show. “
“We are losing money,” admits the 60-year-old, and even a switch to 50% of the gauge might not be enough to strike a balance, an equation that dissuaded Broadway from reopening its doors in the immediate future. “But we are determined and I want to do it in principle.”

– “Beyond a simple evening”

The Theater Center has obtained the green light from the main performing arts union, Actors’ Equity, subject to the obligation of vaccination for the entire team, which must also be tested every evening before the show.
The spectators, they are there and the room is full, 66 people against 200 in normal configuration, according to the producer, Armand Hyatt.
Susan Jacknowitz, 75, traveled from North Carolina to see the play with her friend from New York, Linda Schiffer. “When she texted me to tell me she had had theater tickets, I couldn’t believe it. I was so happy.”
For “Perfect Crime”, a classic mystery mystery matured with a hint of psychology, the current period is an opportunity for a little free publicity, when the play is usually drowned in the bloated supply of Broadway.

Fan of theater, Jessica Bloom had already passed dozens of times in front of the Theater Center, very close to Times Square, but never stopped.
“I want to see the first thing that will get me into a theater, even if I don’t even know what it’s about,” she says.
Actor Charles Geyer remembers a “fantastic” premiere, “because we knew the people in the room were kind of trailblazers.”
The impression did not leave him during the following performances. “We have the feeling of forming a group”, with actors and spectators. “It goes beyond a simple night at the theater.”


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