Artist Is Subject of His Own Canvas in Broadway Bow of Margulies' Sight Unseen

News   Artist Is Subject of His Own Canvas in Broadway Bow of Margulies' Sight Unseen Ben Shenkman, the Tony Award-nominated actor of Broadway's Proof, plays the soul-searching artist at the center of the revival of Donald Margulies' Sight Unseen, opening on Broadway May 25 after previews from May 6.

Ben Shenkman and Laura Linney in Sight Unseen
Ben Shenkman and Laura Linney in Sight Unseen Photo by Joan Marcus

It's a return to a praised script for Manhattan Theatre Club, which first presented the drama about (among other things) identity, passion, guilt and authenticity: The Off-Broadway company staged the play in 1992. Now that MTC has spaces Off-Broadway and on, the well-reviewed Sight Unseen graduates to the MTC Biltmore Theatre on Broadway.

Sight Unseen is the first Broadway opening of the 2004-05 Broadway season. The limited run is scheduled through July 11.

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Daniel Sullivan (Proof) directs Shenkman as Jonathan Waxman, "a celebrated artist who, despite immense popularity, yearns for something more in his life."

Honored with a retrospective exhibition and suffering from the recent death of his father, Waxman naturally looks back at his life, work and relationships. Call it the portrait of an artist at a crossroads. His soul-searching leads him to rural England and a former love, Patricia, played by Laura Linney, whom he dumped years ago. She is married to a protective, neurotic English archeologist, Nick (played by Byron Jennings). A German TV interviewer, Grete, played by Ana Reeder, stirs issues in Jonathan's heart and mind. The play's eight scenes shuffle back and forth in time, dramatizing events over a 17-year-span.

In 1992, the role of Grete was played by Linney. The play was so embraced by New York Times writer Frank Rich in 1992 it's a wonder the staging didn't leap to Broadway a decade ago.

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Shenkman played Hal in Proof Off-Broadway at MTC and then on Broadway (where he and the entire company were Tony nommed). He snagged the choice role of neurotic Louis in the HBO film, "Angels in America," introducing his work to millions.

Shenkman replaces Liev Schreiber in the MTC revival. Schreiber had the opportunity to direct a film and bowed out of the Broadway run at the Biltmore, despite being part of MTC's 2003-04 marketing campaign for the new Broadway space, the sumptuously restored Biltmore Theatre.

Playwright Margulies would later win the Pulitzer Prize for Dinner With Friends. His plays include Collected Stories, God of Vengeance, The Model Apartment, The Loman Family Picnic, Found a Peanut and What's Wrong With This Picture?

Linney appeared in Broadway's The Crucible with Liam Neeson, Jennings' Lincoln Center Theatre credits include Dinner at Eight, The Invention of Love and Henry IV. Reeder recently appeared in Playwrights Horizons' Small Tragedy.

Designers are Douglas W. Schmidt (set), Jess Goldstein (costumes), Pat Collins (lighting) and John Gromada (sound and original music).

Tickets range $26-$81. The Biltmore Theatre is at 261 W. 47th Street. For information, contact Telecharge.com. Visit www.manhattantheatreclub.com.

Ben Shenkman and Ana Reeder in <i>Sight Unseen</i>
Ben Shenkman and Ana Reeder in Sight Unseen Photo by Joan Marcus