Though An Unexpected Man has long been scheduled to end its limited run Jan. 28, there is one new wrinkle: the final performance will be a benefit for the Actors' Centre in London and the Actors Fund of America, according to production spokespersons at Jeffrey Richards Associates. The UK Centre offers classes and workshops, and its current patron is Alan Bates, the co-star, with Eileen Atkins, of Unexpected Man.
Producers Julian Schlossberg and Ben Sprecher announced weeks ago that The Unexpected Man has “recouped its investment” and is playing to “100 percent capacity business” at Off-Broadway's Promenade Theatre, making the play a hit in both literal and figurative terms. By its close, the show, which began previews Oct. 10 and was originally supposed to end Dec. 31, 2000, will have played 16 previews and 112 regular performances.
Atkins, who has been with the project since its London mounting by Matthew Warchus in spring 1998, has previous credits that include Vita & Virginia (opposite Vanessa Redgrave), and Tony nominated turns in Indiscretions, The Killing of Sister George and Vivat! Vivat Regina!. Atkins' co-star Bates is a Tony winner for 1973's Butley and a film star via "An Unmarried Woman" and "Women in Love." Director Warchus’ credits include Art and the recent True West.
Rehearsals for the current mounting began in London, Sept. 5. The West End production of Unexpected Man had starred Atkins and Michael Gambon, with Atkins winning the Olivier Award as Best Actress in a Play for her performance as the lifelong fan of a writer who finds herself sitting across from him on a train. The play's running time is just under 90 minutes, with no intermission.
As it was in London, Christopher Hampton's English translation is being employed, as is the design team that did Broadway's Art: Mark Thompson (sets and costumes) and Hugh Vanstone (lighting). Gary Yershon has provided original music. Asked about how it all finally came together, producer Julian Schlossberg told Playbill On-Line in June 2000, "It's not sudden, believe me. I don't produce suddenly." Schlossberg's co-producers are Ben Sprecher, Ted Tulchin and William P. Miller.
The Unexpected Man puts two middle-aged people in a train compartment: a celebrated, self-involved but neurotic novelist and a lady who’s dying to talk to him but is afraid to start a conversation. Most of the play is given over to their interior monologues; they begin talking to each other only in the final few minutes.
For tickets and information on The Unexpected Man at the Promenade Theatre, Broadway and 76th Street, call (212) 239-6200. Tickets to the final benefit performance are $65.
-- By David Lefkowitz