By Robert Simonson
30 Jun 2001
It won two Tony Awards, for actors Richard Easton and Robert Sean Leonard — who play poet A.E. Housman as an old and young man, respectively — but that apparently wasn't enough to keep the Tom Stoppard play, The Invention of Love, open through the summer. The Lincoln Center Theater production will close at the Lyceum Theatre on June 30.
Critics wrote poems of praise for Tom Stoppard's examination of the dual life — as dusty classicist and repressed romantic — of English poet A.E. Housman. As a result, the show, which opened on Broadway on March 29, graduated from a limited to an open run. The play was to have ended its run on May 27. In the end, however, the extended run resulted in only an extra month of performances.
The large cast also includes Byron Jennings, Paul Hecht, Mark Nelson, Daniel Davis (as Oscar Wilde), Neal Dodson, Mireille Enos, David Harbour, Brian Hutchison, Andrew McGinn, Peter McRobbie, Matthew Floyd Miller, Guy Paul, Martin Rayner, Peter A. Smith, Michael Stuhlbarg, David Turner and Jeff Weiss as Charon. Jack O’Brien (The Full Monty) 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, but soon spotting scene from his younger days at Oxford. Housman is best known for his collection of poems titled "A Shropshire Lad." According to Invention of Love's production notes, Housman expressed his lifelong unrequited passion for a fellow student at Oxford, Moses Jackson, through his melancholy, forlorn poetry. Leonard and Easton play Housman young and old, respectively, and even share a long scene in the first act, in which the older man feelingly lectures the younger about the career in textual study of Greek and Latin which the latter will eventually pursue.