Earlier this year, it looked like playwright Jon Robin Baitz would finally get his first Broadway play when Lincoln Center Theater announced it would transfer Ten Unknowns, which starred Donald Sutherland in his first New York stage appearance in 20 years, to a commercial run on Broadway. The drama would land in a Shubert Theatre in late October, if the plan worked, with Julianna Margulies, Justin Kirk and Denis O'Hare remaining in the cast.
But, oh what a difference a star makes. The New York Times reported June 22 that Sutherland has pulled out of the project, endangering its prospects. The Times quoted LCT executive producer Bernard Gersten as saying a search was underway for a replacement. "We should know in the next few weeks," he said. "The problem is holding the other people in the cast."
Ten Unknowns officially opened at Lincoln Center's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater on March 8 after a month of previews. Daniel Sullivan, an old hand at Baitz dramas, directed.
In the play, Sutherland — sporting a mane of white hair and a beard — played Malcolm, a once promising painter who haunted post-war New York. He now lives in Mexico, where he fled three decades before to escape the hegemony of the Abstract Expressionists (Malcolm is a figurative artist). But with the help of slacker art student Kirk, Malcolm has mysteriously begun producing some of the best paintings of his career, causing dealer O'Hare to see dollars in a Manhattan retrospective of the old man's work. Walking into this den of art-world types is Julia (Margulies), a graduate student researcher studying a breed of frog that is on the verge of extinction. Malcolm, attracted, takes her in.
* Baitz's A Fair Country was seen at LCT a few seasons back. Since then, Manhattan Theatre Club has staged his Mizlansky/Zilinsky, while his adaptation of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler was seen in L.A., in a staging starring Annette Bening, and will soon come to Broadway in a production featuring Kate Burton. Baitz's other works include The Film Society and The Substance of Fire (also seen at Lincoln Center).
—By Robert Simonson