Three Couples, Three Christmases: MTC's Absurd Person Singular Opens on Broadway

News   Three Couples, Three Christmases: MTC's Absurd Person Singular Opens on Broadway Alan Ayckbourn's Absurd Person Singular, the crowd-pleasing comedy about three different couples who commingle on three different Christmases, opens Oct. 18 at Broadway's Biltmore Theatre following previews that began Sept. 22.
Paxton Whitehead in Absurd Person Singular.
Paxton Whitehead in Absurd Person Singular. Photo by Joan Marcus

The connected British couples – Sidney and Jane, Geoffrey and Eva, Ronald and Marion – are linked by the men's business, ultimately, and all follow (or try to) the rules of middle-class morality so familiar in the plays of Ayckbourn.

They variously want to escape their lives, be perfect in their lives, improve their financial lot in their lives. They gather at cocktail parties at each others' homes over the years, and the ways they change are subtle and profound, and often absurdly comic.

John Tillinger directs the new Manhattan Theatre Club production. The three-act play was first seen on Broadway in the 1975-75 season.

The cast features Mireille Enos (Eva), Clea Lewis (Jane), Sam Robards (Geoffrey), Alan Ruck (Sidney), Deborah Rush (Marion) and Paxton Whitehead (Ronald).

Here's the work in a nutshell, according to MTC: "Three couples, three kitchens, three successive Christmas Eves: welcome to the world of Alan Ayckbourn's comedy about social class and splendid cocktails." This marks the sixth Alan Ayckbourn play Manhattan Theatre Club has produced. The nearly 20-year relationship began with the 1988 production of Woman in Mind. Subsequent productions include Absent Friends (1991), A Small Family Business (1992), Comic Potential (2000) and the interwoven plays House and Garden (2002). Director John Tillinger has previously staged MTC's House and Garden and Comic Potential.

The creative team for Absurd Person Singular includes John Lee Beatty (set design), Jane Greenwood (costume design), Brian MacDevitt (lighting design) and Bruce Ellman (sound design). Neil Krasnow is production stage manager.

Robards received a Tony nomination for his Broadway debut in The Man Who Had All the Luck. Enos earned a Tony nomination as Honey in the recent Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? on Broadway. Ruck starred in TV's "Spin City" and recently on Broadway as Leo in The Producers. Cleo Lewis is remembered for her daffy turn as Audrey on TV's "Ellen," and appeared in Off-Broadway's Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight and MTC's Fuddy Meers and An Experiment With an Air Pump (Absurd Person is her Broadway debut). Whitehead has starred in a range of classic and popular roles on Broadway and around North America (he was Tony nommed for playing Pellinore in a 1981 revival of Camelot and was Col. Pickering in 1993's My Fair Lady on Broadway). Rush was Tony nominated for her work in the first Broadway production of Noises Off, and has a slew of fans for her work in the cult TV comedy "Strangers With Candy."

Single tickets to Absurd Person Singular ($26-$80) are available by calling TeleCharge.com at (212) 239-6200 or at www.telecharge.com.

The Biltmore Theatre — MTC's third Manhattan home, in addition to Stage I and Stage II Off-Broadway at New York City Center — is at 261 W. 47th Street.

Visit www.ManhattanTheatreClub.com.

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The original Broadway run of Absurd Person Singular played 591 performances at the Music Box, and earned Tony Award nominations for cast members Larry Blyden (Sidney), Geraldine Page (Marion) and Carole Shelley (Jane). It also starred Sandy Dennis (Eva), Richard Kiley (Ronald) and Tony Roberts (Geoffrey). Eric Thompson directed. (Take a look inside the original Playbill with the Playbill Archives feature.)

Coincidentally, Sept. 22 also marked the first preview of the American premiere of Ayckbourn's RolePlay at Pittsburgh Public Theater. Ayckbourn's Private Fears in Public Places — the 67th play by the master of British comedy — will have a commercial run in New York City in 2006. The playwright is artistic director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, England, where many of his plays have premiered.

Sam Robards and Mireille Enos in <i>Absurd Person Singular</i>.
Sam Robards and Mireille Enos in Absurd Person Singular. Photo by Joan Marcus