The pair officially went into repertory on Jan. 16 when the Chekhov play was given its first performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Art's Harvey Theatre. Twelfth Night began its run Jan. 10. Sam Mendes directs both.
The run concludes with the Sunday matinee of Vanya. The final weekend at the Harvey saw lines of hopefuls waiting for the stray returned ticket. The two classics, which opened at the Donmar in London last autumn, played a month later than the originally-announced Feb. 9 closing date.
Academy Award nominee Emily Watson and esteemed British actor and New York Times favorite Simon Russell Beale head the casts of both shows. Beale will play Vanya and Malvolio, while Watson is Viola in Twelfth Night and Sonya in Vanya. David Bradley (as Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Professor Serebryakov), Helen McCrory (as Countess Olivia and the beautiful Yelena), Anthony O'Donnell (as Feste, the jester, and poor landowner Telegin), and Mark Strong (as lovesick Duke Orsino and the doctor Astrov) are also featured. All recreate the roles they played in London.
Playwright Brian Friel, author of Translations and Philadelphia, Here I Come!, has written the adaptation of the Chekhov classic.
The production of Twelfth Night boasts a minimal set design concept by Anthony Ward, consisting mainly of a wooden playing area backed by a large gold picture frame, within which various adored characters stand from time to time. The staging also uses a variety of candles, some sitting on the floor, others suspended from the ceiling, lending a magical air to the proceedings. The concept is seemingly borrowed from Nicholas Hytner's production of Twelfth Night at Lincoln Center Theatre a few years back, which also employed a host of candles. The central piece in the Vanya set was a long wooden table lined with ten bentwood chairs and sitting upon a wooden floor covered with many oriental rugs. Beyond it was a field of long green grass through which some characters passed from time to time.
The songs sung by O'Donnell decidedly dour Feste are composed by George Stiles.
Late last year, American producers Anita Waxman and Elizabeth Williams revealed their intention to bring the Donmar stagings to New York. However, their original intention was to mount them on Broadway. At the time, Nicole Kidman, who starred in the Donmar's The Blue Room, was rumored to be the star. Kidman was later replaced by Watson, a veteran of such films as "Cradle Will Rock" and "Gosford Park."
In December, Sam Mendes stepped down as artistic director of the Donmar, the off-West End Covent Garden theatre that he has turned into one of the most successful and fashionable in London over a 10-year period. Leaving the Donmar will enable him to concentrate on theatre and film production. He won an Oscar for his debut film "American Beauty." His latest film effort was "The Road to Perdition," starring Tom Hanks.