Earlier this year, it looked like playwright Jon Robin Baitz would finally get his first Broadway play when Lincoln Center Theater announced it would transfer Ten Unknowns—which starred Donald Sutherland in his first New York stage appearance in 20 years—to a commercial run on Broadway. The drama would land in a Shubert Theatre in late October, if the plan worked, with Julianna Margulies, Justin Kirk and Denis O'Hare remaining in the cast.
But, oh what a difference a star makes. Sutherland pulled out of the project in June, endangering its prospects. The Times quoted LCT executive producer Bernard Gersten as saying a search was underway for a replacement. "We should know in the next few weeks," he said. "The problem is holding the other people in the cast."
A month after Gersten's comment, it looks like spring 2002 is a more likely time frame for Baitz' Broadway debut. A replacement for Sutherland is still being sought, and the involvement of the other three performers is no longer a certainty. O'Hare, specifically, has been offered a part in the upcoming Roundabout Theatre Company Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim's Assassins.
Ten Unknowns officially opened at Lincoln Center's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater on March 8 after a month of previews. Daniel Sullivan, an old hand at Baitz dramas, directed.
In the play, Sutherland — sporting a mane of white hair and a beard — played Malcolm, a once promising painter who haunted post-war New York. He now lives in Mexico, where he fled three decades before to escape the hegemony of the Abstract Expressionists (Malcolm is a figurative artist). But with the help of slacker art student Kirk, Malcolm has mysteriously begun producing some of the best paintings of his career, causing dealer O'Hare to see dollars in a Manhattan retrospective of the old man's work. Walking into this den of art-world types is Julia (Margulies), a graduate student researcher studying a breed of frog that is on the verge of extinction. Malcolm, attracted, takes her in. Whatever the fate of Ten Unknowns, Baitz will have some Broadway doings this fall. His adaptation of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler begins previews at the Ambassador Theatre Sept. 19.
—By Robert Simonson