Ionesco's 1952 absurdist comedy follows two people living alone on an island. The Old Man wants to make a speech to all mankind about the meaning of life -- but do they have enough chairs for their invisible guests?
The Chairs will be coproduced in New York by Bill Kenwright, Carole Shorenstein Hays, Stuart Thompson and Scott Rudin, who called the show, "up front, in your face, sock-it-to-`em theatre."
Briers has appeared in several Kenneth Branagh films and on numerous British sitcoms, though he's also worked at the UK's Renaissance Theatre Company in classical roles. McEwan starred in the original production of Joe Orton's Loot and has worked at the Royal National and Royal Court.
Director Simon McBurney is artistic director of Theatre de Complicite, who received critical acclaim for their production of The Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol, which was brought to Lincoln Center's Summer Festival two seasons ago. Most recently, McBurney's received a 1997 Olivier Award for his production of Brecht's The Caucasian Chalk Circle at London's Royal National Theatre.
Ionesco's other best-known works include The Bald Soprano (1948), The Lesson (1951), Rhinoceros (1960) and Hunger and Thirst (1964). When first produced, The Chairs was loathed and ignored, but Samuel Beckett and other contemporaries defended the piece. By 1956, a revival championed by Jean Anouilh caught on, and the play was re-evalutated as a modern absurdist classic.
The last NY mounting was at Off-Broadway's Pearl Theatre, May 1997.
The Theatre de Complicite/Royal Court Theatre staging of The Chairs, running through June 13, uses a new translation by Royal Court resident playwright, Martin Crimp. Designing the show are the Quay Brothers (set), Paul Anderson (lighting) and Paul Arditt (sound).
Tickets to The Chairs are on sale via TeleCharge (212) 239-6200 and at the John Golden box office.