Hal Linden, whose roles have included Baron de Rothschild in a Broadway musical and Barney Miller on TV, has been named to replace Eli Wallach in the Off-Broadway comedy/drama, Visiting Mr. Green. Wallach's Drama Desk-nominated turn in Mr. Green ends July 5.
Wallach had been with the play since it tried out in March 1997 at Florida's Coconut Grove Playhouse and opened, Dec. 15, 1997, at the Union Square Theatre in New York. The actor leaves Mr. Green only a week after his wife, Anne Jackson, finishes up in Signature Theatre's new Arthur Miller play, Mr. Peters' Connections.
Co-starring in this two-hander is David Alan Basche (as Ross), who appeared in Tony Kushner's A Dybbuk at CT's Hartford Stage. According to the Jeffrey Richards office (June 22), Basche also leaves when Wallach departs the show. Replacing Basche will be Mitchell Anderson, of TV's "Party of Five." Stage credits include Gross Indecency in L.A. and Flaubert's Latest at Off-Broadway's Playwrights Horizons.
The first full-length play by Jeff Baron, a writer for TV's "Tracy Ullman Show" and "Sisters," Visiting Mr. Green also helped net veteran actor Wallach the first annual Edith Oliver Award for "excellence Off-Broadway." Wallach appeared on Broadway in Major Barbara, Waltz Of The Toreadors, The Price (1992), Twice Around The Park and Cafe Crown. He won a Tony for his work in The Rose Tattoo and made his Broadway debut in 1945's Skydrift.
In Visiting Mr. Green, Wallach, an octogenarian himself, plays a surly 80s-age widower living on NY's Upper West Side. Amiable Ross Gardiner intrudes on this setting -- by nearly running Mr. Green down with his car. Sentenced, as community service, to visit Green weekly for six months, Gardiner establishes an odd friendship with the old man. Visiting Mr. Green began previews Nov. 28, 1997 at the Union Square Theatre (after the brief stint of three-for-all).
Directing the Florida production and New York productions is Lonny Price, who staged The Springhill Singing Disaster, The Rothschilds and Juno Off-Broadway. Costumes for Mr. Green are by Gail Brassard, lighting by Phil Monat (who also did the honors in Florida), and set by Loren Sherman.
The show was iffy for Off-Broadway for awhile because of Wallach's hip surgery, but as he told the NY Post (Sept. 9, 1997), "As soon as I'm back on my own two feet, I'll be getting ready for the new play."
And audiences should get ready for three more weeks of Wallach and an open run for Linden in Visiting Mr. Green, at the Union Square Theatre on East 17th St., (212) 505-0700.
-- By David Lefkowitz