Arguably the most universally-acclaimed play of the last several decades, Wit ends its New York run April 9. The show, now starring English actress Lisa Harrow, originally played at off-Broadway’s Manhattan Class Company Sept. 17-Dec. 13, 1998 and then moved to OB’s Union Square Theatre Jan. 7, 1999.
The play will have played 75 performances at MCC and 545 performances at the Union Square. It is the longest-running show in the latter theatre's history.
The show, produced by MCC Theater, Long Wharf Theatre and Daryl Roth, recouped its investment before its 100th performance at the Union Square. Margaret Edson’s drama went on to win the Pulitzer Prize, while original New York lead actress Kathleen Chalfant garnered almost every award and plaudit for her role as an English literature professor suddenly struck down, physically and psychically, by fourth-stage ovarian cancer. Judith Light replaced Chalfant Off-Broadway and has been heading the national tour since Feb. 1. Chalfant went on to do Wit in Los Angeles (Jan. 18-March 5) and has also brought the show to London, March 27 for an opening April 3.
According to the show's press office, Wit has become MCC's biggest success. Variety reported (April 6) that Emma Thompson will star in an HBO television version of the piece, directed by Mike Nichols.
Producers were initially eyeing a Broadway run, specifically at the Helen Hayes Theatre, but those chances fell through in November 1998, reportedly because the Hayes' owner thought a play about a cancer patient would have limited commercial appeal. Instead, the theatre booked Band in Berlin. Wit is Edson's first play, based in part on her experiences working at the AIDS Inpatient Unit of the National Institutes of Health. Today Edson teaches kindergarten in Atlanta, GA.
Wit's original director, Derek Anson Jones, died Jan. 17, one day before the play began its L.A. run.
For tickets and information on Wit at the Union Square Theater, 100 East 17th St., call (212) 307-4100.
-- By Robert Simonson and David Lefkowitz