The Steppenwolf Theater Company's new Garage space has found its first hit. The troupe's production of Austin Pendleton's new play, Orson's Shadow, has extended its stay until March 5 -- a full month past its original closing date of Feb. 5.
Orson's Shadow -- about the fictional doings of Orson Welles, Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Joan Plowright and Ken Tynan, circa 1960 - opened on Jan. 13. The show no doubt benefitted from a recent positive review by the New York Times. Sources have Pendleton showing the script to various producers in New York. A Steppenwolf spokesperson said the theatre had no immediate plans for the play beyond the current extension.
The play is the second of Pendleton's to play Steppenwolf, but the first to debut there. Uncle Bob received a staging, starring the actor director-playwright, several seasons back. Uncle Bob was seen in New York at the Mint Theatre. Pendleton's first work, Booth, was mounted at the York Theatre Company.
Jeff Still plays titanic genius of film, theatre and radio, Welles, in Shadow, while John Judd is Olivier, perhaps the greatest actor of the Twentieth Century. Also in the cast are David Warren as Kenneth Tynan, Lee Roy Rogers as Vivien Leigh, Sarah Wellington as Joan Plowright, and Dominic Conti as the only non-famous character in the play, stagehand Sean. David Cromer directs.
The play concerns the 1960 London premiere of Ionesco's Rhinoceros, which starred Olivier and was directed by Welles. At the time, Olivier was going through a nasty divorce from his second wife, actress Leigh, who named actress (and, from 1961, Olivier's third wife) Plowright as co-respondent in her divorce filing. Tynan was London's leading dramatic critic and all around enfant terrible, a friend of both Welles and Olivier (he would co-found the Royal National Theatre with Oliver in 1963), and a frequent sparring partner of Ionesco's. Pendleton is best known as an actor (The Diary of Anne Frank, Finian's Rainbow) and director (The Runner Stumbles, The Little Foxes).
-- By Robert Simonson