The production which runs at the Acorn Theater began performances Nov. 26 and officially opened Dec. 18.
Though the terms "World Trade Center," "terrorist attacks" or "September 11" are never uttered, references to planes, buildings, intermittent sirens and the ever-present soot on the cuffs of one character's pantlegs definitively set the scene for the drama. The play takes place within 20 hours of those events, however, focuses on the affair between a married man and an older woman. "We've been given something here... a chance," poses the man who struggles with the consequences of allowing his wife and kids to assume he is dead.
The play's title — The Mercy Seat — is a Biblical reference. "The Mercy Seat was the top of the Ark of the Covenant," LaBute explained, "that in the temple was the one space where God could come and man or the priests could speak before him."
The new LaBute work opens MCC's season under the author's direction. The two character play replaces the previously announced New York premiere of LaBute's The Distance From Here.
Schreiber, known for his stage and film work, was last seen on the New York stage in Land of the Dead (LaBute's contribution to the 9/11 benefit of Brave New World) with Kristin Davis, under the direction of LaBute. A frequent actor at The Public Theater, his Shakespeare credits include The Tempest, Macbeth, Cymbeline, Hamlet and Othello. Last seen on Broadway in another affair centered play, Betrayal, Schreiber has also sustained a steady film career with roles in the "Scream" trilogy, "The Daytrippers," "Kate & Leopold" and, of course, the Ethan Hawke "Hamlet." Weaver received a Tony Award nomination for her starring role in Hurlyburly on Broadway, but is perhaps best known for her film work in the "Alien" series, "Ghostbusters," and her Academy Award-nominated turn in "Gorillas in the Mist." Her most recent stage work was in the 9/11-themed The Guys — she also stars in the upcoming film version — directed by her husband Jim Simpson.
LaBute's The Distance From Here was postponed until the 2003-04 season to make room for the more timely Mercy Seat. The film version of his most recent Off Broadway work, The Shape of Things starring Rachel Weisz, Paul Rudd, Gretchen Mol and Frederick Weller, will be released in May 2003 as confirmed by a Focus Features spokesperson. Other LaBute works include bash: latter day plays and Filthy Talk for Troubled Times.
For tickets to MCC's The Mercy Seat at the Acorn Theatre, 410 West 42nd St. (between Ninth and Tenth Ave.), call (212) 279-4200. For more information about MCC, visit www.MCCTheater.org.