Jon Robin Baitz's new play Ten Unknowns, starring Donald Sutherland in his first New York stage appearance in 20 years, and Julianna Margulies, will officially open March 8. Previews began at Lincoln Center Theater's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater on Feb. 8. Justin Kirk and Denis O'Hare are also in the cast. Daniel Sullivan, an old hand at Baitz dramas, directs.
In the play, Sutherland — sporting a mane of white hair and a beard — plays Malcolm, a once promising painter who once 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.
Sutherland recently appeared in Enigma Variations in London. At one point, the play had Broadway aspirations, but those were perhaps halted when the show earned largely negative reviews in the West End. Sutherland's last appearance on the New York stage was in Edward Albee's short-lived Lolita.
Margulies is the well-known star of the television program "ER." Kirk starred in the original cast of Love! Valour! Compassion!. O'Hare, whose Broadway credits include Cabaret, recently played Macbeth at Hartford Stage, and Osric in a cable movie of Hamlet. In the last year, Sullivan directed A Moon for the Misbegotten on Broadway, Proof at Manhattan Theatre Club and, later, Broadway, and Spinning Into Butter at LCT.
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.
—By Robert Simonson