Ian McKellen, Helen Mirren, David Strathairn, Anne Pitoniak, Keira Naughton and Eric Martin Brown will do a little Swedish two-step called The Dance of Death when they open in August Strindberg's play on Broadway, Oct. 11. Englishman Sean Mathias directs the Richard Greenberg translation, which will begin previews Sept. 18. The limited run will complete its stay at the Broadhurst on Jan. 13, 2002.
Given the play's title and its caustic subject matter, many wondered whether Dance of Death would survive the rocky economic days which befell Broadway following the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center. However, the drama, no doubt bolstered by the star power of its two leading players, has regularly posted robust numbers. For the week ending Sept. 30, the Strindberg took in $419,245 and boast 92.3 percent of its seats filled. No straight play did better.
McKellen was last seen on the New York stage when his Richard III visited the Brooklyn Academy of Music several years ago. The production was later made into a film. McKellen dozens of other theatre credits include Amadeus (Tony Award), Wild Honey, The Dutchess of Malfi and The Cherry Orchard.
Mirren made her belated Broadway debut in the mid-90s in A Month in the Country at the Roundabout Theatre Company, starring opposite Ron Rifkin and F. Murray Abraham. Her performances netted a Tony nomination. Her UK theatre credits include Collected Stories, Orpheus Descending, Extremities, Antony and Cleopatra, The Dutchess of Malfi and many productions with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Strathairn is a regularly praised presence on the New York stage, his many Broadway and Off-Broadway efforts including the recent Stranger by Craig Lucas (who recently penned an appreciation of Strindberg in The New York Times) at the Vineyard Theatre and Ashes to Ashes at the Roundabout. Pitoniak won a Tony Award nomination for Marsha Norman's 'Night Mother. In recent years, he has embodied many an aged woman role in such Broadway offerings as Uncle Yanya and Picnic at the Roundabout, and Amy's View opposite Judi Dench.
Naughton, the daughter of actor James Naughton, has appeared in several productions with various small Off-Broadway companies, including Worth Street Theatre's Uncle Jack, the Signature Theatre Company's The American Clock and Blue Light Theatre Company's Hotel Universe. Finally, Eric Martin Brown, who makes his Broadway debut with Dance of Death, was directed by Mathias in Serviceman at Off-Broadway's New Group.
Dance of Death was written by the Swedish dramatist in 1901 and belongs to Strindberg's later, expressionistic phase, a period which produced such classic works as The Ghost Sonata and The Dream Play. McKellen and Mirren play Edgar and Alice, husband and wife for 25 years, who dwell in a home they have dubbed "Little Hell." As they prepare for their silver anniversary, a figure from their past enters the scene.
The English Mathias is best known in America for his production of Indiscretions, a retitled reworking of French surrealist Jean Cocteau's Les Parents Terribles. The Broadway production starred Eileen Atkins, Kathleen Turner, Roger Rees, Cynthia Nixon and Jude Law.
Greenberg's many works include Three Days of Rain and Night and Her Stars. A couple of other Greenberg plays will reach New York in the coming season. The Dazzle is slated for the Roundabout Theatre Company. And the dramatist's latest, Everett Beekin, premiered at South Coast Repertory Theatre last fall and will make its New York debut later this month with frequent Chicago and one-time Fosse dancer Bebe Neuwirth in the lead at Lincoln Center Theater.