I’m re-running this column from four years ago to honor the 85th birthday of Jerry Orbach (born October 20, 1935). One of the highest compliments I’ve ever received was when shortly after posting it, I got an email from Chris Orbach (who I don’t know) and who wrote: “You captured my dad perfectly.” You can read all about this beloved actor in today’s “Theatre Yesterday and Today.”

Was there anyone more well-liked in the Broadway community than Jerry Orbach? I’ll go further and include the film and television community. Hell, how about the entire community of New York City? The stories of police men and women calling out to him on their street beats and out of patrol cars, in deference to his longtime portrayal of Detective Lennie Briscoe on Law & Order, attest to both his likability and approachability. …

I saw Heidi Schreck’s astonishing play What the Constitution Means to Me just over two years ago and it remains one of my most special experiences in a lifetime of theatergoing. With its filmed version debuting today on Amazon Prime, I thought I would rerun the column I wrote then in its entirety in order to once again reiterate what a special achievement it was for theatre and for the world, and the unique circumstances upon which I saw the show.


It was a rather extraordinary thing to pick myself up off the sofa last night, where I had been glued to the TV for nearly eight straight hours, before heading downtown to the New York Theatre Workshop on East Fourth Street to see their latest offering. Watching the duel testimonies of Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh throughout the day had left me completely worn out, but a last-minute offer to attend a new play felt like a good way to clear my head. Difficult as it was to muster the energy, I dutifully showed up without even realizing what I was getting myself into. Because due to the subject matter of What the Constitution Means to Me, a new play Heidi Schreck, I was setting myself up for a corollary (and yes, a tonic) to the travesty of justice that was gripping the nation. What Schreck is doing, at this moment in time, is necessary not only to our worth as a country, but to our theatre, which at its best, shines a light on current ideas and mores upon which we can reflect and hopefully grow. …

Try as I do with these columns to divert from the troubling headlines we are forced to confront upon waking up every morning, I felt compelled today to write about something with a connection to Broadway, but really about something else entirely in this edition of “Theatre Yesterday and Today.”

Today marks the anniversary of an event, that upon closer inspection, offers some eerie parallels to what’s going on right now. The year was 1969 and the war in Vietnam was literally tearing the country apart. …


Ron Fassler

is an author, playwright, director, actor, theatre critic and historian, whose book “Up in the Cheap Seats” is available at Amazon.com.