The Royal Alexander Theatre production of Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt's Enigma Variations, starring Donald Sutherland as Abel Znorko, will open on schedule Feb. 17 according to production sources in Toronto.
Sutherland's co-star for the Toronto run has not been named.
Enigma focuses on a reclusive Nobel Prize-winning writer, Znorko (Sutherland) who gives an interview to a small-town journalist, Erik Larsen, which in turn leads to a life-and-death battle of wits.
Manny Azenberg's office told Playbill On-Line that auditions for the role of Erik Larsen had not been held and that casting would not be completed until the first week of December. Asked whether auditions would be held in New York or Toronto, Azenberg's office said they would be held "wherever we need to have them."
A Royal Alexander source said that whatever occurs, Jamie Sheridan, Sutherland's co-star from the Los Angeles run at the Mark Taper in Los Angeles, is not expected to be doing the play in February. An exact start date for the Toronto rehearsals has not been announced.
Enigma's Toronto run is scheduled to end April 1, just four weeks before the 1999-2000 Tony deadline. While this is a tight schedule for a move to Broadway, the 30-day window of opportunity will theoretically allow Enigma to become Tony eligible.
As reported earlier on Playbill On-Line, film commitments prompted the postponement of the Toronto production of Enigma Variations, which was originally scheduled to start performances Sept. 14.
Sutherland postponed his opening in order to complete the Clint Eastwood Malpaso/Mad Chance Production, "Space Cowboys," which was written by Ken Kaufman and Howard Klausner and stars Tommy Lee Jones, James Cromwell and James Gardner. Production on that film began July 19. Produced and directed by Eastwood, who also stars, "Space Cowboys" is about four aging test pilots whose nonconformity kept them out of the space program of the '60s. Today, the pilots' special knowledge, skills and independence make them valuable to NASA during a present-day crisis, especially if they can beat out younger candidates for the challenging job, which, as the title suggests, involves a certain amount of rigorous travel.
In September, Mirvish Productions told Playbill On-Line it has been using the postponement period to renovate the Royal Alexandra by recovering seats, painting, and refurbishing the theatre entrance with new crash doors.
Enigma will mark movie actor Sutherland's first Broadway appearance since acting in Edward Albee's ill-fated Lolita in 1981. Sutherland became a movie star following his portrayal of Hawkeye Pierce in the Robert Altman movie "M*A*S*H." He went on to become one of the leading film actors of the early '70s, delivering performances in such off beat films as "Klute," "Kelly's Heroes" and "Little Murders." In recent years, Sutherland has played memorable villains and supporting character roles, in film including "Backdraft," "JFK" and "A Time to Kill." He most recently played the coach in Robert Towne's "Without Limits." His son, Kiefer Sutherland has enjoyed a popular career as an actor and director.
-- By Murdoch McBride