Somehow, the Steppenwolf Theater Company of Chicago has found actors to play Orson Welles and Laurence Olivier -- the central characters in Austin Pendleton's new play, Orson's Shadow. Jeff Still will play titanic genius of film, theatre and radio, Welles, while John Judd is Olivier, perhaps the greatest actor of the Twentieth Century. Orson's Shadow will open at Steppenwolf's Garage space on Jan. 13 for a run through Feb. 3.
Also in the cast are David Warren as Kenneth Tynan, Lee Roy Rogers as Vivien Leigh, Sarah Wellington as Joan Plowright, and Dominic Conti as the only non-famous character in the play, stagehand Sean. David Cromer directs.
The play, Pendleton's third, concerns the 1960 London premiere of Ionesco's Rhinoceros, which starred Olivier and was directed by Welles. At the time, Olivier was going through a nasty divorce from his second wife, actress Leigh, who named actress (and, from 1961, Olivier's third wife) Plowright as co-respondent in her divorce filing. Tynan was London's leading dramatic critic and all around enfant terrible, a friend of both Welles and Olivier (he would co- found the Royal National Theatre with Oliver in 1963), and a frequent sparring partner of Ionesco's.
Pendleton, best known as an actor (The Diary of Anne Frank, Finian's Rainbow) and director (The Runner Stumbles, The Little Foxes), debuted as a playwright in the early 90s with Booth, a bio-drama which starred Frank Langella as legendary actor Junius Booth. Though that work did not go far, Pendleton's second play, the searing Uncle Bob, went on to enjoy productions in New York, Los Angeles, Hartford and Chicago.
-- By Robert Simonson