Critics wrote poems of praise for Tom Stoppard's examination of the dual life—as dusty classicist and repressed romantic—of English poet A.E. Housman. As a result, the Lincoln Center Theater production, which opened on Broadway on March 29, has graduated from a limited to an open run. The play was to have ended its run on May 27.
Tickets are now being sold through the end of the summer. The large cast is expected to remain intact for the time being. Byron Jennings, Paul Hecht, Mark Nelson, Robert Sean Leonard and Richard Easton are among the players. Jack O’Brien directs.
Also in the large cast are Daniel Davis as Oscar Wilde, Neal Dodson, Mireille Enos, David Harbour, Brian Hutchison, Andrew McGinn, Peter McRobbie, Matthew Floyd Miller, Guy Paul, Martin Rayner, Peter A. Smith, Michael Stuhlbarg (A Dybbuk, Old Wicked Songs), David Turner and Jeff Weiss as Charon.
Jennings appeared last year in U.S premiere of Waste at Theatre for a New Audience and The Man Who Came to Dinner at the Roundabout Theatre Company. Hecht was last seen in New York in Arthur Laurents' The Big Potato. Nelson's many credits include Einstein in Steve Martin's Picasso at the Lapine Agile.
Leonard is a Broadway and Off-Broadway regular. His credits include Stoppard's Arcadia, Philadelphia, Here I Come! and The Iceman Cometh. The Invention of Love has as its central character the conservative, not to say dour, 19th century English poet and scholar A.E. Housman (1859 1936). Stoppard's story begins with Housman, old and infirm, dreaming he is dead and being ferried across the river Styx by the mythical boatman Charon, but soon spotting scene from his younger days at Oxford. Housman is best known for his collection of poems titled "A Shropshire Lad." According to Invention of Love's production notes, Housman expressed his lifelong unrequited passion for a fellow student at Oxford, Moses Jackson, through his melancholy, forlorn poetry. Robert Sean Leonard and Richard Easton play Housman young and old, respectively, and even share a long scene in the first act, in which the older man feelingly lectures the younger about the career in textual study of Greek and Latin which the latter will eventually pursue.
The play had its U.S. premiere at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco last fall, with James Cromwell in the Houseman role. It then played Philadelphia's Wilma Theatre. Paxton Whitehead played Houseman at the Court Theatre in Chicago this past October.
A production of the play at Washington, D.C.'s Studio Theatre will run almost simultaneously with the New York show. The Studio Theatre has reportedly taken an original approach to the text by producing the play in the round. The company transformed its 200-seat thrust stage specifically for the Stoppard work, which began previews March 28.
LCT has a history of introducing Stoppard's work to New York audiences. The theatre has hosted the Gotham premieres of Arcadia and Hapgood. Jack O'Brien directed the latter; he’s currently riding high on the critical and box office of strength of The Full Monty. Bob Crowley will provide costume and scenic design.