Nathan Lane is returning to Terrence McNally’s Broadway hit It’s Only A Play beginning March 31, taking over from Martin Short who took over from Lane when the latter departed last month to honor a previous commitment to a limited run of The Iceman Cometh. It’s Only A Play has already been extended twice since its smash October 9 opening and quickly recouped its $3.9 million capitalization — but box office hasn’t been the same since Lane left and Short took on the role of James Wicker, an actor who’s made it big doing schlock and the best friend of Matthew Broderick’s serious playwright Peter Austin. Last week, the show grossed $499K, just 47% of its box office potential, after a fall season in which it regularly sold out, broke house records the Bernard Jacobs Theatre and had one of the highest per-ticket averages pin Broadway.

Lane’s return still leaves open the possibility of a transfer of Iceman Cometh, which is slated to close at the off-Broadway Brooklyn Academy Of Music after its limited run ends March 15. In that production Lane stars opposite Brian Dennehy in the Eugene O’Neill revival. Lane will stick now with Play until its planned June 7 closing date.

F. Murray Abraham, Matthew Broderick, Stockard Channing, Katie Finneran, Maulik Pancholy and Micah Stock currently star in It’s Only A Play. Jack O’Brien directs.