Gregory Murphy’s long-running Off-Broadway drama, The Countess, will close at the Lamb's Theatre on Dec. 30 after 634 performances.
Producer and director Ludovica Villar-Hauser made the decision to end the show’s long run after box receipts dipped precipitously after Thanksgiving and showed no signs of resurgence. The cast was given notice Dec. 20.
Promoted as “the longest-running drama of the 1999-2000 season, on or Off-Broadway," (the show premiered at the Greenwich Street Theatre) The Countess moved to its third venue, the Lamb's, on April 24, 2000 and re-opened on May 11.
"This season a host of new and very well-received straight plays opened on Broadway, completely transforming the landscape from last season," said Villar-Hauser in a prepared statement. "Clearly these well-regarded plays siphoned off a large portion of our core audience of literate, sophisticated theatergoers. I am very grateful we connected with them when we did."
Four members of the original cast remain in the show even now—Jennifer Woodward (Effie Ruskin), James Riordan (John Ruskin), and Jy Murphy (Millais) —with John Quilty as the butler Crawley. Anita Keal and Richard Seff assumed the roles of John Ruskin's meddling parents after the move to the Lamb’s and, on Nov. 20, Janet Zarish took over as Lady Eastlake. “The difference between this season and last is staggering,” said production spokesperson Beck Lee. “While Broadway is invigorated, we almost have an embarrassment of riches because Off-Broadway is so over-saturated.” Lee said he was aware that the Old Globe plans to mount its own production of The Countess in the spring but that there were no plans to take the Off-Broadway production on tour. Lee said he was also unaware of any plans to bring another show into the Lambs, and that “there was no pressure” to move The Countess to make room for any another production. “Not at all,” Lee insisted. “They would’ve loved for us to keep going.” A film adaptation of The Countess, is planned for Europe and is being readied for pre-production.
—By Murdoch McBride