Despite getting generally good reviews, the current Off-Broadway revival of Peter Nichols' Passion Play will end its run May 6, after only 17 previews and 39 regular performances. Performances began March 20 for an opening April 4 at the Minetta Lane Theatre.
Reasons for the short run include the tough competition of many Broadway springtime openings, combined with the fact that even reviewers who praised the production pined for the recent revival done at the UK's Donmar Warehouse and likely held a grudge against producer Elinor Renfield for blocking that transfer so she could mount her own staging.
Simon Jones, of "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" fame, stars in Passion Play. Known for playing intelligent, supercilious English characters who are invariably just shy of mild exasperation, Jones' other recent Broadway credits include The Herbal Bed and Waiting in the Wings. (Please see PBOL's Brief Encounter interview with Jones in the Features section.)
Co-star Maureen Anderman's credits include The Waverly Gallery and a Tony nominated turn in Edward Albee's The Lady from Dubuque.
Also in the Passion Play cast are Leslie Lyles (Down the Garden Paths, Natacha Roi (Closer), Lucy Martin (Breaking the Code) and John Curless (Comic Potential). (Previous reports had Ruthie Henshall in the cast; she had been involved in readings of the play but is not doing the show.) In Passion Play, after 25 years of marriage, a successful man still in love with his wife is attracted to a younger and sexually voracious woman, Kate (Roi), whose temptations he's unable to resist. As trust collapses, husband and wife Eleanor and James (Anderman and Jones) are left floundering and exposed.
The play premiered in 1981 at the Royal Shakespeare Company and in 1983 came to Broadway (retitled "Passion"), where it was directed by Marshall Mason and starred Frank Langella, Cathryn Damon and Roxanne Hart.
Last summer, Passion Play had a hit run at the Donmar Warehouse and moved to the West End's Comedy Theatre. The production had Broadway aspirations, but the producers couldn't get the U.S. rights to the play, which are held by Elinor Renfield. Renfield directed the play in the late 1980s at Washington DC's Arena Stage and stages the Off-Broadway production. "The play is a masterpiece, and I have been thinking about it and living with it for many years," Renfield told the Post in August. Renfield's directing credits include the expanded Broadway version of Open Admissions
Designing the Off-Broadway mounting are Narelle Sissons (sets), Christine Field (costumes), Jeff Croiter (lighting) and Ken Travis (sound).
Passion Play is the second 1980s infidelity play play recently revived by the Donmar to get stage time in New York. Tom Stoppard's 1982 play, The Real Thing, starring Stephen Dillane and Jennifer Ehle (Design for Living), transferred to the Albery Theatre before moving on to Broadway's Barrymore Theatre, where it won the Tony for Best Revival of a Play.
The recent London mounting, not connected to the New York production, was directed by Michael Grandage and starred Cherie Lunghi ("Excalibur") and James Laurenson as the married couple, with Cheryl Campbell and Martin Jarvis playing their argumentative alter-egos. At the Comedy Theatre, Jarvis was replaced by Nick Henson. Nicola Walker and Gillian Barge also transferred with the rest of the cast to the new venue.
Nichols' other plays include A Day in the Death of Joe Egg and Privates on Parade. Passion Play won the 1981 Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Play.
Roy Gabay serves as general manager and Richard Kornberg & Associates handles publicity for the play, which is produced by Louise and Stephen Kornfeld, Kardana/Swinsky Productions, Karen Adler and Teri Solomon Mitze, in association with Roy Gabay and Lawrence Roman. The last Minetta tenant, Anne Meara's Down the Garden Paths, closed Jan. 14.
For tickets and information on Passion Play at the Minetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Lane, call (212) 307-4100.