Mixed Notices: Oscar- and Emmy-winning Helen Hunt drew mixed reviews for her New York stage turn as the cross-dressing Viola in Nicholas Hytner's production of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night," which opened Thursday as part of Lincoln Center Festival 98. The New York Post's Clive Barnes raved about nearly all aspects of the show, calling it "the best American-produced Shakespeare in more than three decades," and the New York Daily News' Fintan O'Toole, Daily Variety's Charles Isherwood and the Hollywood Reporter's Frank Scheck all complimented Hunt's superior comic timing, with O'Toole adding that she "trips lightly and elegantly through the role." But Newsday's Linda Winer said Hunt's Viola "proceeds to be very boring indeed" and noted that "her voice, usually prized for its unfussiness, sounds flat and unmusical doing Shakespeare and her intelligent face seems in perpetual squint." Ben Brantley of the New York Times wrote: "Hunt, in particular, has a two-dimensional flatness that keeps the audience at a distance." However, designer Bob Crowley's pond-filled set drew raves all around, with Barnes calling it "gorgeous, just gorgeous." And Newsday's Winer termed it "ravishing--[but] perhaps one of the most beautiful worlds ever overproduced and tricked up for such a crushingly inert, surprisingly dull and endlessly cloying dramatics." Reviews for Hunt's co-stars, Paul Rudd and Kyra Sedgwick, were also mixed.
James Dean's Tombstones Recovered: Actor James Dean's stolen tombstone was returned to his grave Friday a little the worse for wear after a sheriff's deputy ran over it with his car on a central Indiana highway and nearly crashed. The squad car suffered damage to the transmission and had to be towed from the scene, but no one was hurt in the incident. The marker had been stolen earlier this week from Dean's grave in his hometown of Fairmount, Ind. There are no suspects.
Mauceri Taking the 'Eternal Road': John Mauceri, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra's principal conductor, will fulfill a career-long ambition next year when he conducts Kurt Weill's pre-Holocaust opera about anti-Semitism, "The Eternal Road," in Germany, Israel and New York. "It's the unknown masterpiece in the center of his career," Mauceri said of "The Eternal Road," which has been performed only once, in New York in 1937. "I believe the music should be heard, because I think it will be a healing force." The opera that foretold the Holocaust tells of the oppression of Jews, a subject matter that apparently became "too much of a risk" for the world's major opera companies to produce after World War II. Mauceri will lead Germany's Teatre Chemnitz in the production next June; it will be the work's first performance in its original German (the 1937 production was in English). Future plans call for performances by the Israel Philharmonic and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, as well as a recorded version. Mauceri says he has no current plans to conduct the work in L.A. but notes that the Hollywood Bowl and Music Center schedules have not yet been set for 2000, which is the centennial of Weill's birth. Coincidentally, the last time any portion of "The Eternal Road" was performed was at the Bowl, during a postwar "Rally for the Living" in 1946, under music director Franz Waxman.
Case Dropped: The L.A. County district attorney's office on Friday dropped a sexual battery charge against singer Bobby Brown, 29, saying it had "insufficient evidence" to prosecute. The misdemeanor charge, defined as "unlawful touching for the purpose of sexual arousal," had stemmed from a June 21 citizen's arrest at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Police did not release details, but Brown reportedly was accused of slapping a teenager on the behind. Brown, married to singer Whitney Houston, has had several legal run-ins, including a 1996 arrest for kicking a security guard at West Hollywood's Le Montrose Suite Hotel, for which he received two years' probation.