By Robert Simonson
29 Mar 2001
|Photo by Photo by Paul Kolnick|
Byron Jennings, Paul Hecht, Mark Nelson, Robert Sean Leonard and Richard Easton ponder The Invention of Love, as the Tom Stoppard's play by that name officially opens on Broadway March 29, after a month of previews. The New York City premiere production is presented by Lincoln Center Theater at the Lyceum Theatre. 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 Stoppard's Arcadia, Philadelphia, Here I Come! and The Iceman Cometh.
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. It then played Philadelphia's Wilma Theatre. Paxton Whitehead played Houseman at the Court Theatre in Chicago this past October.
A production of the play at Washington, D.C.'s Studio Theatre will run almost simultaneously with the New York show. The Studio Theatre has reportedly taken an original approach to the text by producing the play in the round. The company transformed its 200-seat thrust stage specifically for the Stoppard work, which began previews March 28.
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.