Retreat From Moscow began its life at England’s Chichester Festival in 2000. It is Nicholson's first Broadway credit since Shadowlands, which starred Nigel Hawthorne and Jane Alexander in 1991. The play is partly based on the breakup of the British Nicholson's own parents.
Eileen Atkins stars as Alice, an exacting and opinionated woman who is preparing a new anthology of poetry, the largest chapter of which is titled "Lost Love." Soon she discovers that lost is just the word for her husband Edward's love and their 33-year marriage. Lithgow plays Edward, a mild, repressed teacher who likes nothing better than to do his daily crossword and wishes his wife would stop exhorting him to talk to her and examine their marriage. Matters come to a head when Edward meets another woman and works up the courage to leave Alice. The decision floors his wife, an observant Catholic who equates divorce with murder.
Chaplin plays their diffident, thirtysomething son, whose greatest talent is avoidance of conflict. The spare work calls for only a few pieces of furniture and an artful use of lighting. Dan Sullivan directs.
Stage and screen star John Lithgow comes to Moscow from the short-lived 2002 musical Sweet Smell of Success, for which he won a Tony Award. He won his first Tony for his work in 1973's The Changing Room, one of many British plays in his past. He also received Tony nominations for Requiem for a Heavyweight and M. Butterfly. Lithgow won three Emmy Awards for his work on the television sitcom “3rd Rock from the Sun,” and he garnered two Academy Award nominations for his performances in “The World According to Garp” and “Terms of Endearment.”
Atkins has appeared often on stages in London and New York. Most recently, she acted in The Unexpected Man Off-Broadway. She performed in and wrote two plays in which she played Virginia Woolf: A Room of One's Own, a solo show, and Vita and Virginia with Vanessa Redgrave. On Broadway, her credits stretch from 1966's The Killing of Sister George to 1995's Indiscretions. She was nominated for a Tony Award for both, as well as 1972's Vivat! Vivat Regina! Chaplin is best known for such films as "The Truth About Cats and Dogs."
Playwright William Nicholson's absence from the stage since Shadowlands can be credited to an active career in screenwriting. After penning the script to the film of "Shadowlands," he wrote "Nell," "First Knight," "Grey Owl" and, interestingly, "Gladiator." He began his career as a television producer of documentary films.
The title of Moscow refers to Napoleon's horribly costly invasion of Russia, in which the lives of tens of thousands of soldiers were lost. Edward is reading a book on the subject in the play, and the army's retreat becomes a metaphor for his and Alice's ruptured marriage.
Susan Quint Gallin, Stuart Thompson, Ron Kastner, True Love Productions, May Lu Roffe and Jam Theatricals produce Moscow.