Alexander and Channing to Star in The Breath of Life at Westport

News   Alexander and Channing to Star in The Breath of Life at Westport Tony Award winners Jane Alexander and Stockard Channing will co-star in the Westport Country Playhouse's upcoming production of David Hare's The Breath of Life, which begins performances Sept. 29.
Stockard Channing (top) and Jane Alexander
Stockard Channing (top) and Jane Alexander

Westport artistic director Mark Lamos will direct the play about two women whose lives are linked through one man, whom they both loved. The Breath of Life will run through Oct. 17.

Hare's play, according to Westport, "is a tale of two seasoned women, whose lives are interwoven through their relationship with a pivotal, yet offstage, male character, Martin. Madeleine Palmer (Alexander) is a retired curator, living alone on the Isle of Wight. One day to her door comes Frances Beale (Channing) a woman she has met only once, who is now enjoying sudden success, later in life, as a popular novelist. Over the course of one day and one night, the two women reflect on their lives and their relationship with Martin, their joint obsession."

Dames Maggie Smith and Judi Dench appeared in the London premiere of the work in 2002. The production drew the largest advance of a straight play in the history of the West End and resulted in two extensions.

"I saw The Breath of Life when it premiered in London and was seduced by its quietly profound and wonderfully intelligent depiction of two women who share an obsession that has deeply affected their lives," said Lamos in a statement. "When I accepted the offer to become artistic director at the Playhouse a few months ago, it was one of the first plays I thought about producing here."

Lamos continued, "The play will star two of America's most distinguished and gifted actresses — actresses who can bring these two women to life in all their vulnerability, wit and despairing irony. This is a play that is as much about two women as it is about the culture that shapes them; the men and the mistresses and the politics that have driven their lives to this dramatic, stunning moment." Designing the production are Michael Yeargan (set design), Robert Wierzel (lighting design), Greg Hennigan (original music and sound design) and Elizabeth Smith (dialect consultant).

Jane Alexander earned a Tony Award for The Great White Hope and received nominations for her work in Honour, The Sisters Rosensweig, The Visit, First Monday in October, Find Your Way Home and 6 Rms Riv Vu. Her Oscar nominated screen performances include “Testament,” “Kramer vs. Kramer,” “All the President’s Men” and “The Great White Hope." She has appeared on television in "Playing for Time, Eleanor and Franklin," "Warm Springs," and "Carry Me Home." Alexander served as the chairman of the NEA from 1993-1997.

Stockard Channing most recently earned a Tony Award nomination for her work in the revival of Pal Joey at the Roundabout Theatre Company. In addition to her Tony-winning performance in Joe Egg, Channing earned Tony nominations for her work in The Lion in Winter, House of Blue Leaves, Four Baboons Adoring the Sun and Six Degrees of Separation. Her stage credits also include Hapgood, Love Letters, Woman in Mind, The Rink, The Golden Age, They're Playing Our Song and Little Foxes. Channing was nominated for an Academy Award for repeating her work in the film of Six Degrees, and is known for her screen roles in "Grease," "The First Wives Club," Where the Heart Is," "Practical Magic," "Bright Young Things, "Twilight," "The West Wing" and "The Matthew Shepard Story."

For tickets visit WestportPlayhouse.

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