Earlier this year, it looked as if 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 the Rialto. The drama was to have landed 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. Sutherland pulled out of the project in June, endangering its prospects. Since then, the play's Broadway prospect have dried up and a new Mark Taper mounting has appeared on the horizon.
But the problem of whom to cast in Sutherland's place remains. Baitz told New York Newsday's Patrick Pacheco that he and producers were talking with several actors, two English — Brian Cox and Ian Holm — and one American — Nick Nolte. Nolte recently starred in the premiere California engagement of Sam Shepard's The Late Henry Moss. Cox was seen Off-Broadway a few seasons back in Conor McPherson's St. Nicholas and was once scheduled to return to New York in another McPherson play, A Dublin Carol. Holm is, of course, a seasoned and respected English actor of long standing, but one who has rarely graced the American stage.
As far as the rest of the cast, it was unclear whether the Lincoln Center actors will repeat their performances. The New York staging featured Denis O'Hare, Juliana Margulies and Justin Kirk.
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.
Whatever the fate of Ten Unknowns, Baitz will have some Broadway doings this fall. His adaptation of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler begins previews at the Ambassador Theatre Sept. 19.
—By Robert Simonson