Sullivan and Baitz Plan to Retool Unknowns at Taper

News   Sullivan and Baitz Plan to Retool Unknowns at Taper Playwright Jon Robin Baitz and director Daniel Sullivan still hope to take another stab at Ten Unknowns, sometime in the coming season — though L.A.'s Mark Taper Forum has made no official announcement mentioning the drama.

Playwright Jon Robin Baitz and director Daniel Sullivan still hope to take another stab at Ten Unknowns, sometime in the coming season — though L.A.'s Mark Taper Forum has made no official announcement mentioning the drama.

"Right now the plan is to do it in Los Angeles at the Mark Taper," Sullivan told Playbill On-Line Jan. 16, "because the Mitzi Newhouse [at Lincoln Center] is shaped like the Taper stage. Our thinking was to take another look at the text and recast it, and do it out there and see what happens... [Baitz and I] both like the idea of getting to work on the second act."

Ten Unknowns debuted at LCT's Newhouse Theatre in early 2001 and, despite mixed reviews, plans for a Broadway transfer were quickly proclaimed. Much of the force behind that transfer was the star power of Donald Sutherland, who was making his first stage appearance in 20 years. So, when Sutherland pulled out of the project in June, Unknown's Broadway prospects dried up.

Baitz has mentioned such actors as Brian Cox, Ian Holm and Nick Nolte for the Sutherland part in a Taper mounting. Sullivan said Sutherland was still a possibility but cautioned, "There was a problem getting Donald to Broadway, an economic issue, and I think that would probably happen again."

The Off-Broadway cast also featured Julianna Margulies, Justin Kirk and Denis O'Hare. Ten Unknowns officially opened at Lincoln Center's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater on March 8 after a month of previews. 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.

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A Boston production of Ten Unknown, starring Ron Rifkin, was recently announced for the Huntington Theatre. Dates are May 17-June 16.

—By Robert Simonson