Doug Hughes (Frozen, Doubt) directed the Roundabout Theatre Company limited engagement which began Nov. 11 and opened Dec. 8. Next up in the space will be the new Wallace Shawn adaptation of The Threepenny Opera directed by Scott Elliott (March 24-June 11) starring Alan Cumming.
Joining Byrne are Dearbhla Molloy (Juno and the Paycock), Emily Bergl (The Rivals, Fiction), John Horton (Noises Off), Byron Jennings (The Man Who Came to Dinner, The Foreigner), Kathryn Meisle (Tartuffe, The Constant Wife), Randall Newsome (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter), Ciaran O'Reilly (The Irish and How They Got That Way) and Daniel Stewart Sherman (Henry IV, The Full Monty).
Set in 1828 near Boston, A Touch of the Poet is about Cornelius Melody, an Irish immigrant who, based on a fraud perpetrated by his wealthy father, presents himself a distinguished gentleman to his family and neighbors, though evidence to the contrary is overwhelming. All his illusions are challenged, however, when his daughter (Bergl), who is contemptuous of her dad's posing—his war stories, grand accent and quoting of Byron—falls for the son of a wealthy native Yankee.
Poet and a rough draft of More Stately Mansions are all that remains of O'Neill's plan to create a series of plays examining the history of materialism and greed in the U.S. The playwright destroyed much of his "cycle" writing before he died in 1953.
The role of Melody was first played on Broadway in 1958 by Eric Portman opposite Helen Hayes in the original Helen Hayes Theatre. (Take a look back at the original 1958 Playbill with the Playbill Achives feature.) Denholm Elliott played it in a subsequent 1967 staging, and reigning O'Neill interpreter Jason Robards, Jr., finally got around to the part in 1977, the most recent Broadway production. Byrne earned a Tony Award nomination for his previous Broadway turn as James Tyrone, Jr. in the 2000 revival of O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten opposite Cherry Jones and Roy Dotrice. The actor has also appeared Off-Broadway in The Exonerated but is perhaps best known for his work in such films as "Point of No Return," "Little Women," "The Usual Suspects," "Polish Wedding" and recently in "Vanity Fair" and "Assault on Precinct 13."
The design team for A Touch of the Poet features Santo Loquasto (sets and costumes), Chris Akerlind (lights) and David Van Tieghem (sound and original composition).
Hughes — who was honored with the 2005 Tony Award for his direction of John Patrick Shanley's Doubt — recently staged Roundabout's Off-Broadway stagings of Jon Robin Baitz's The Paris Letter and Stephen Belber's McReele at the Laura Pels Theatre. The director of Frozen also currently reteamed with the non-profit on the recent Broadway premiere of Richard Greenberg's A Naked Girl on the Appian Way. Other projects on the busy director's schedule include Greenberg's The House in Town, Shanley's Defiance and the new musical Ever After.
A Tough of the Poet played at Roundabout's Studio 54, located at 254 West 54 St. For more information, go online to www.roundabouttheatre.org.