Off-Broadway’s Manhattan Ensemble Theatre has pushed back its scheduled production of Ordet to make way for a one-man staging of Thomas Mann's Death in Venice, imported from Scotland's Citizen's Theatre.
The play, which will bow at MET's Soho space sometime after June 1, is the handiwork of Robert David McDonald and Giles Havergal, two of guiding forces behind the Citizen's Theatre. MacDonald did the adaptation of Mann's classic 1912 novella, while Havergal takes on the role of the spiritually ailing novelist Aschenbach.
Havergal is known on these shores for his all-male, four-actor adaptation of Graham Greene's 1968 novel, "Travels with My Aunt," which had an applauded and popular run at the Minetta Lane Theatre several seasons ago. Brian Murray and Jim Dale headlined that staging.
In Mann's story, the austere and habitually-repressed Aschenbach — feeling old, emotionally empty and artistically bankrupt — takes a Venetian holiday, hoping to discover solace and rebirth on the Lido's shores. Instead, he is disturbed by as growing passion for an angelically beautiful Polish boy, Tadzio. His pursuit of this late-in-life love, and his disregard of the various signs of death and decay which surround him, lead the writer to a grotesque and unexpected end.
Death in Venice fits in nicely with MET's mission to bring the world's literary classics to theatrical life. The company began its journey last spring with an adaptation of Dostoyevsky's "The Idiot." A stage version of Kafka's "The Castle" followed. Currently, MET is presenting a new version of Halper Leivick Yiddish classic, The Golem. MET had announced a new adaptation of Danish dramatist Kaj Munk's Ordet as the final selection in its 2002 season. That project will be presented at a later date.
The MET space is at 55 Mercer Street in Manhattan. For information call (212) 925-1900.
—By Robert Simonson