The Canadian premiere of Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt's Enigma Variations, starring Donald Sutherland (Abel Znorko) and John Rubinstein (Erik Larsen) begins previews in Toronto Feb. 17. The Royal Alexandra Theatre production opens officially Feb. 24 and runs through April 1. Mirvish Productions has announced certain new details about its production and confirmed much of what was already reported about the show.
Topping the news is the confirmation that the "strictly limited engagement" of Enigma Variations will be directed by award winning stage, film and television director Anthony Page and designed by the legendary Ming Cho Lee. Page had been linked to the project.
Enigma was rumored to be headed for Broadway, and may still be, but Playbill On-Line has also learned that the show may be playing London's West End immediately after Toronto, instead of New York. Because Enigma's Toronto run is scheduled to end April 1, just four weeks before the 1999-2000 Tony deadline, the window of opportunity is so small that producers would probably be faced with choosing between Broadway or the West End. Should the play go to New York, it would mark movie actor Sutherland's first Broadway appearance since acting in Edward Albee's ill-fated Lolita in 1981.
Enigma Variations was written by French playwright Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt. The English language translation being used in Toronto was done by Roeg Sutherland, who is the son of Enigma Variations star Donald Sutherland from an earlier marriage to Francine Racette, one of the producers of the Toronto show.
A prolific and versatile film star, Donald Sutherland was born in St. John, New Brunswick, and studied at the University of Toronto and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in England before launching a career. Sutherland's Toronto appearance has a special meaning for Canadian audiences. "Donald Sutherland is recognized as one of the leading film stars of our time," said producer David Mirvish in a paper statement, "but many people in Toronto haven’t had the chance to see him on stage since his days at the University of Toronto, when he performed at Hart House as a student. This production affords us all a rare opportunity."
John Rubinstein won the Tony Award as Best Actor for Children of a Lesser God, as well as the Drama Desk, L.A. Drama Critics Circle and Drama-Logue Awards. Also on Broadway, John Rubenstein won acclaim for his starring roles in Pippin, Love Letters, Hurlyburly, M. Butterfly and, most recently, Ragtime. On television, he starred in the drama series "Family," and has worked with such directors as Steven Spielberg, Herbert Wise and Tony Richardson. His film credits include Ridley Scott’s "Someone To Watch Over Me," Sidney Lumet’s "Daniel" and John Badham’s "Another Stakeout."
In Enigma, Sutherland plays Abel Znorko, a reclusive Nobel Prize winning novelist who publishes a passionate and personal book of letters that earns universal praise. When a journalist, played by John Rubinstein, is granted a rare interview, a cascade of twisting, shattering revelations links the two men in a richly plotted pas de deux. Playwright Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt is a French-born philosophy professor and author. Among his plays are Le Visiteur (the winner of three Moliere Awards) and La Nuit De Valognes. He has also translated and adapted the French-language productions of Nine, The Merchant of Venice and many other plays and musicals. In France, he is a best selling and award-winning novelist. He splits his time between Dublin and Paris.
Director Anthony Page has worked both on Broadway and the West End, helming productions of A Doll’s House (seen on Broadway a few seasons ago, starring Janet McTeer), Three Tall Women, Uncle Vanya and A Delicate Balance. Page has also directed films starring Albert Finney, Nicol Williamson and Richard Burton. On television, he has done many productions for BBC, NBC, CBS, HBO, Showtime and ABC.
Set designer Ming Cho Lee has designed internationally for 40 years and chairs the design department of the Yale School of Drama. Costume designer is Candice Cain, lighting designer is Robert Wierzel and sound designer is Jon Gottlieb.
Enigma Variations is produced by Francine Racette, Emanuel Azenberg, Duncan Weldon, Ira Pittelman, David & Ed Mirvish and The Mark Taper Forum/ Gordon Davidson.
Tickets range from $26.50 - $66.50. The show will run at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King Street West in Toronto. For more information, call (416) 872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333, or by visiting www.mirvish.com.
-- By Murdoch McBride