Tennis, Anyone? Big Bill Has Its Own New York Open, Feb. 22

News   Tennis, Anyone? Big Bill Has Its Own New York Open, Feb. 22 A.R. Gurney's new drama, Big Bill, about one-time tennis titan and 1920s icon "Big Bill" Tilden, will officially open its New York premiere engagement at Lincoln Center Theater's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre on Feb. 22, after previews from Feb. 6.
John Michael Higgins in Big Bill
John Michael Higgins in Big Bill Photo by T. Charles Erickson

The show, which played the Williamstown Theatre Festival in summer 2003, stars John Michael Higgins, who repeats his Williamstown work as Tilden. Joining him will be WTF co-stars David Cromwell, Stephen Rowe and Margaret Welsh, as well as Michael Esper, Alex Knold, Jeremiah Miller and Donal Thoms-Cappello. Mark Lamos directs, as he did in Massachusetts. The work will open at Lincoln Center Theater's smaller house, the Mitzi E. Newhouse, on Feb. 22.

The play is a rare venture into historical drama for Gurney, who is known for his WASP-populated comedies like Later Life, Labor Day and The Fourth Wall. Tilden dominated courts during the 1920s and was also a successful journalist, writing about the sport. His life was triumphant until he was arrested for homosexuality and henceforth shunned by the public and the sport he loved. He died broke and alone in 1953.

Higgins is known for wry performances in such films as "Best in Show" and Off-Broadway in Jeffrey and Tiny Alice.

Big Bill's design includes sets by John Lee Beatty, costumes by Jess Goldstein and lights by Rui Rita.

The busy 73-year-old Gurney has already had one production this past fall—Strictly Academic at Primary Stages—and has just announced that Big Bill will be followed on March 18 by the Flea Theatre presentation of Mrs. Farnsworth. Both Primary Stages and the Flea saw Gurney plays last season as well (The Fourth Wall and O Jerusalem, respectively).