Ralph Fiennes will play Shakespeare's fierce Roman warrior and political idealist, Coriolanus, for the final time on Sept. 30. The British actor has been playing the role in repertory with the title part in Richard II. The latter play closes on Oct. 1. Fiennes' long-time collaborator, Jonathan Kent, directed both productions. Kent guided Fiennes through Hamlet, which was seen on Broadway several seasons back. Kent has also piloted Medea, Phedre and Britannicus, all of which featured Diana Rigg and travelled to these shores.
Fiennes' two assignments took him to opposite sides of the dramatic spectrum. Coriolanus is a willful and wildly successful military leader, so headstrong and disdainful of the masses, that he is banished from the Rome that once cheered him. Richard II, meanwhile, is a foppish and ineffectual leader who acquires nobility only after he is unseated.
The last major Coriolanus to grace the New York stage was at the Public Theater in the late '80s. Christopher Walken played the title role, while Irene Worth was his ambitious mother, Volumia. A Public Theater mounting from the '70s featured Morgan Freeman and Gloria Foster.
Fiennes won a Tony for his Hamlet. Of late, he has been seen more frequently on film, including the recent "The End of the Affair." Other films of note include "Quiz Show," "Schindler's List" and "The English Patient."
The cast features Barbara Jefford as Volumnia and the Duchess of York; Linus Roache as Bolingbroke and Aufidis; Oliver Ford Davies as the Duke of York and Menenius; Emilia Fox as Queen Isabel and Virgilia; Robert Swann as Northumberland; and David Burke as John of Gaunt and Cominius.
--By Robert Simonson