The latest actor to join the starry cast of The Best Man, the Gore Vidal play due on Broadway this September, is Christine Ebersole. Sources close to the production say she will play the wife of the character played by Chris Noth.
Ebersole is currently on view in David Marshall Grant's Off-Broadway play Current Events, at Manhattan Theatre Club. Ebersole's career has included Broadway turns in Getting Away With Murder, Harrigan-n-Hart, Camelot (Richard Burton), Oklahoma! and On the 20th Century. She has appeared in the Encores! musical concert series in Ziegfeld Follies of 1936, Lady In the Dark and Allegro.
Political parties will follow The Wild Party into the Virginia Theatre. The Best Man will begin previews at the Broadway house on Sept. 5.
The booking is a bit a surprise, given the Virginia's reputation as a musical house. The theatre's last two tenants were Michael John LaChiusa's The Wild Party, which recently closed, and Smokey Joe's Cafe, which ran there for five years. Spalding Gray, Charles Durning and Elizabeth Ashley will be featured in the cast of The Best Man, with Ethan McSweeny directing. The play boasts a large cast (17) with six leads. Chris Noth, the former star of "Law & Order" and now star of "Sex & the City," will star.
The last time Gray appeared on a New York stage as part of anything other than one of his well-known and popular monologues, was as the Stage Manager in the Lincoln Center Theater production of Our Town in 1989. In Best Man, Gray is to play presidential candidate William Russell to Durning's President Hockstader.
Durning's many theatre credits include the recent Broadway revivals of The Gin Game and Inherit the Wind, as well as last spring's Glengarry Glen Ross at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ. Ashley is well known for her turns in Tennessee Williams plays, including Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly Last Summer and The Red Devil Battery Sign.
Director McSweeny staged Never the Sinner Off Broadway and Side Man at MN's Guthrie Theatre.
At the beginning of the 1999-2000 season, the New York Times carried an ad for an upcoming mounting of The Best Man but offered few details as to who, what, when or where. Numerous calls by Playbill On Line to Vidal's agent at CAA went unreturned (possibly because the rights to the play remain with the William Morris Agency).
The original production of The Best Man opened at the Morosco Theatre March 31, 1960. Cast-members included Melvyn Douglas (as Russell) and Leora Dana. Joseph Anthony directed the three-act drama, set at a 1960 Presidential Convention in Philadelphia.
--By Robert Simonson