Fiona Shaw, one of England's most celebrated and honored actresses, will finally make her American stage debut, Nov. 17. She'll perform solo in an adaptation of T.S. Eliot's 1922 poem, The Waste Land.
Shaw and director Deborah Warner have collaborated on the project, which "creates a theatrical mosaic out of the poem which Eliot himself once described as, `a pile of broken images.'"
According to production spokesman James Morrison, the show is far from a mere recitation. "Shaw takes on all the personae within the work, shaping it into a real theatre piece."
Though the show will come to 42nd Street's newly re-opened Liberty Theatre, which hasn't had a play on its stage since Masks And Faces closed there in 1933. Although the venue holds 1,050 seats, the theatre will be reconfigured for a far more intimate 200 for this production.
The Waste Land premiered May 1995 at the Kunsten Festival des arts in Brussels and then went on to the Irish Life Dublin Theatre Festival, Montreal's Festival de Theatre des Ameriques, and Toronto's DuMaruier Harbourfront Festival. A BBC film production of the piece premiered in May at Cannes. Fiona Shaw has starred in Royal Shakespeare Company productions of As You Like It and Electra; and the Royal National Theatre's productions of The Good Person Of Szechwan and Machinal. For all four, she took home a Best Actress Olivier Award. She also won the London Critics Award for Szechwan and Hedda Gabler. In 1995, she received strong notices at the Royal National for her work in Richard II -- as Richard.
Deborah Warner is founder of the Kick Theatre Company and winner of an Olivier for Best Director for her production of Titus Andronicus at the RSC. Shaw and Warner are currently filming Richard II in the UK before bringing The Waste Land to New York.
The oddest thing about this production is that with Cats and The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot will have two shows running within eight blocks of each other -- and they're both based on non-narrative verse rather than dramatic works.
Previews for The Waste Land begin Nov. 14. For tickets ($35) and information on this limited engagement (through Dec. 15), which is co produced by Jedediah Wheeler and En Garde Arts, call (212) 279-4200.
-- By David Lefkowitz