By Robert Simonson
01 Mar 2001
Byron Jennings, Paul Hecht, Mark Nelson, Robert Sean Leonard and Richard Easton will ponder The Invention of Love on March 1, when Tom Stoppard's play by that name has its New York City debut. The Broadway production is presented by Lincoln Center Theater at the Lyceum Theatre. It will officially open March 29. Jack O’Brien, in a distinct departure from The Full Monty, his most recent project, directs.
Jennings appeared last year in U.S premiere of Waste at Theatre for a New Audience and The Man Who Came to Dinner at the Roundabout Theatre Company. Hecht was last seen in New York in Arthur Laurents' The Big Potato. Nelson's many credits include Einstein in Steve Martin's Picasso at the Lapine Agile.
Leonard is a Broadway and Off-Broadway regular. His credits include Arcadia, Philadelphia, Here I Come! and The Iceman Cometh.
Also in the large cast are Daniel Davis, Neal Dodson, Mireille Enos, David Harbour, Brian Hutchison, Andrew McGinn, Peter McRobbie, Matthew Floyd Miller, Guy Paul, Martin Rayner, Peter A. Smith, Michael Stuhlbarg (A Dybbuk, Old Wicked Songs), David Turner and Jeff Weiss.
The Invention of Love has as its central character the conservative, not to say dour, 19th-century English poet and scholar A.E. Housman (1859-1936). Stoppard's story begins with Housman, old and infirm, dreaming he is dead and being ferried across the river Styx by the mythical boatman Charon. Housman is best known for his collection of poems titled "A Shropshire Lad." Through his melancholy, longing poetry, according to Invention of Love production notes, he expressed his lifelong unrequited passion for a fellow student at Oxford, Moses Jackson. Robert Sean Leonard and Richard Easton will play Housman young and old, respectively.
The play had its U.S. premiere at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco last fall, with James Cromwell in the Houseman role. [See PBOL's "Brief Encounter" with Cromwell.] It then played Philadelphia's Wilma Theatre. Paxton Whitehead played Houseman at the Court Theatre in Chicago this past October.
LCT has a history of introducing Stoppard's work to New York audiences. The theatre has hosted the Gotham premieres of Arcadia and Hapgood. Jack O'Brien directed the latter; he’s currently riding high on the critical and box office of strength of The Full Monty. Bob Crowley will provide costume and scenic design.