Can Shonda Rhimes save Hollywood?

"I HAVE NEVER CONSIDERED THAT when men have gained their liberty they have the right to live in idleness and create disorder," wrote Francois Dominique Toussaint-L'Ouverture back in the 1700s.

So there is a price we all pay for overthrowing existing wicked or despotic governments when we have nothing with which to replace them. And the people who demonstrate and act out in the streets generally have no "organization" to carry forward the changes wrought. This is what we engineered for Iraq in order to replace Saddam Hussein. Would it not have been better to leave a small contained dictatorship than what we caused to happen afterward?

Cheers for the fact that North Korea's Kim Jong-Un hasn't been seen in public in a while and that there might be a chance that the men of the North could soon be rid of him and perhaps opt for a more civilized place in the world order. This is wishful thinking. The Korean army then, with its collective finger on the nuclear bomb, might be worse than the hapless Kim Jong-Un, who at the very least is an American basketball and movie fan!

YOU PROBABLY DON'T subscribe to The Hollywood Reporter because show biz is not your business and this publication, glamorous as it is, costs a lot of money ($199 a year).

BUT here's how attractive the magazine appears with a good-looking gal on the cover, and she isn't even a movie or TV star. But she is the star, behind the scenes, for ABC, and the Reporter writes about her like so: "THIS IS TV'S SAVIOR, SHONDA RHIMES."

Still in the dark? This brunette looker is called a "showrunner" and she is described as a woman who "produces big, addictive hits (three), offers effortless diversity, appealing to mainstream America." And the Reporter adds this sniping sentence -- "Even if The New York Times doesn't get that."

The Reporter mentions just three of her hits that are pleasing her network: "Grey's Anatomy," "Scandal" and "How to Get Away with Murder."

When I went to the first run-through of Terrence McNally's comedy "It's Only a Play" on Broadway, I thought it was about an hour too long for the average theatergoer, but I didn't criticize. I gave it an unqualified rave because (1) I adore the director, Jack O'Brien, and the writer, my longtime much admired Texas friend, Terrence. (2) The cast was to die for. This was a limited run till January 4, 2015. And I presumed Jack and Terrence would "fix" the repetitious length before opening night and cut about an hour of it. Was I ever naive!

"It's Only a Play" opened last week to a first-night audience as star-studded as the cast. Everybody was somebody, like Mike Nichols and Diane Sawyer and Anna Wintour and my date, Tommy Tune. They got all the sardonic inside jokes and laughed their collective backsides off. At the desperate second act, however, they were beginning to think twice, what with all the long speeches, insults and sight gags. They needed to go to the bathroom again, and maybe get dinner before midnight.

My friend Ben Brantley, who comes in for his share of assumed critical meanness at every opening, wrote a masterful review in The New York Times, which appeared Oct. 10. Ben doesn't exactly write with a soft damning attitude about shortcomings; he writes a review as zestful, respectable of the theater and its stars and just as funny as anything in the play, sending himself up in the bargain.

I think the truth here is that the producers, the Shuberts, the 20-odd backers, the glittering stars -- each one a gem -- and the creators felt they didn't have anything to lose. It was a limited engagement and the big stars onstage all had bigger fish to fry very soon and they couldn't lose. I agreed with them. Why not put on a love letter to the meanness and charm and importance of theater, getting the jokes while they had a chance. And in a big cast with everyone a star, and presenting the new guy, who will doubtless become one, to heck with it. "We'll do anything we like with this one and enjoy ourselves for a change and not care how the critics kill us or say the play is too long ... and then we'll trundle off to our waiting jobs elsewhere, in movies, TV, serious British plays, advertisements and endorsements or whatever."

You know, actors suffer so much I think they deserve to make a campy joke out of the vagaries of live acting on the Broadway stage. The chance to do as they please may never come again.

And though this comedy is overwritten and not really so good, it is impervious to criticism. Even though it's not really about "anything" but the heartless love of acting, a valentine to theater, a treat to all who get the jokes, and a homage to so-called friendship, plus Broadway as it used to be, what's the harm? You get dinner a little late. There's a long intermission. The play falls apart at places. I laughed again and loved all of them -- every single one.

I personally regard "It's Only a Play" as a tribute to the way things used to be when the theater began at 8:30 p.m. and New York really was open all night and crowds in Times Square were civilized. My friend Roger Friedman pointed out a line to me near the end. He noted that three famous beloved theaters were torn down to make room for the loathed Marriott Marquis on 45th and 46th Streets. So when the show ended, the cast went across the street to the same hotel to hold their after-party.

I'd advise you not to miss this master epic as it stumbles and bumbles and you get to watch incredible big talent onstage. You can leave early if you get tired of Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. The latter gets blasted for his character, which he didn't write. He appears as the only true feeling human being in the play. But who needs humans when we have a cast of brilliants onstage, outshining one another?

Go see "It's Only a Play" and hurry before they leave for their real jobs.

(E-mail Liz Smith at