Heartbreak House: New Production of Odets' Awake and Sing Opens on Broadway April 17

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17 Apr 2006

Zoe Wannamaker and Mark Ruffalo in <I>Awake and Sing!</I>.
Zoe Wannamaker and Mark Ruffalo in Awake and Sing!.
Photo by Paul Kolnik

One family tries to break free of a world where "life is printed on dollar bills" in Lincoln Center Theater's new Bartlett Sher-directed production of Clifford Odets' Awake and Sing!, which officially opens at the Belasco on April 17, after previews from March 24.

Mark Ruffalo as the striving wise guy Moe, Ben Gazzara as righteous Marxist grandpa and Zoe Wanamaker as the fretfully materialistic mother lead the cast. Also living in the play's stifling Bronx apartment building are Lauren Ambrose and Pablo Schreiber as Wanamaker's two children, Ned Eisenberg as capitalist Uncle Morty, Jonathan Hadary and Wanamaker's "failure" husband, Peter Kybart and Richard Topol.

The classic American play first staged in the Depression by The Group Theatre is stage at the Belasco Theatre, where the drama originally opened in 1935. The production celebrates the playwright's centenary.

LCT's usual Broadway home, the Vivian Beaumont Theater, is currently occupied by the Tony Award-winning musical The Light in the Piazza, which Sher staged. Piazza's Tony Award winning designers — Michael Yeargan (sets), Catherine Zuber (costumes) and Christopher Akerlind (lighting) — will create the bleaker world of Awake and Sing!

Many know the title, but Awake and Sing! isn't often revived (despite the fact that Arena Stage in Washington, DC, offered it earlier this year). It's a portrait of a Jewish family struggling through the Depression in the Bronx. It is considered Odets' masterpiece, and a major work produced by The Group Theatre, the short-lived collective of actors, writers, designers and directors whose members were interested in socially-relevant works and a performance style steeped in gritty realism.



Ruffalo, who will play Moe Axelrod, first garnered notice in the original Off-Broadway production of Kenneth Lonergan's This Is Our Youth. Soon after, he was discovered by Hollywood, and has appeared in such films as "You Can Count on Me," "In the Cut," "Just Like Heaven," "Rumor Has It" and "The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." This will be his Broadway debut.

Actress Lauren Ambrose is widely known for playing Claire Fisher in TV's "Six Feet Under." Awake and Sing! will mark her New York stage debut. In London, she co-starred in the National Theatre's production of Sam Shepard's Buried Child, directed by Matthew Warchus.

Ned Eisenberg's theatre credits include the Broadway production of The Green Bird, roles Off-Broadway at the Second Stage, Vineyard Theatre, Naked Angels, Theatre for A New Audience and regionally at the Long Wharf Theatre and the Williamstown Theatre Festival, and in the national tour of Lost in Yonkers.

Ben Gazzara created the role of Brick in the original production of Tennessee Williams' Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, and received Tony nominations for his performances in the 1976 revival of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Hughie/Duet and the original production of A Hatful of Rain. He was most recently nominated for a Drama Desk Award for his solo performance as Yogi Berra in Nobody Don’t Like Yogi.

Jonathan Hadary last appeared at Lincoln Center Theater in Jules Feiffer's A Bad Friend. His Broadway and Off-Broadway credits include All Shook Up, The Best Man, Gypsy with Tyne Daly (Tony Award nomination), As Is, Torch Song Trilogy, Lips Together, Teeth Apart, Assassins, Scrambled Feet and God Bless You Mr. Rosewater.

Peter Kybart has appeared on the New York stage in the Broadway productions of Judgment at Nuremberg and The Diary of Anne Frank.

Pablo Schreiber was recently in the Roundabout Theatre Company's production of Mr. Marmalade.

Richard Topol appeared on Broadway last season in Julius Caesar. His extensive theatre credits include the Off-Broadway production of Omnium Gatherum as well as roles with the Acting Company, Soho Rep, Playwrights Horizons, WPA Theatre and regionally with the Long Wharf Theatre, Yale Rep, Hartford Stage and McCarter Theatre.

Zoe Wanamaker received Tony nominations for her performances on Broadway in Electra, Loot and Piaf. The daughter of American actor Sam Wanamaker, she is one of England's leading actresses, and appears regularly on the London stage in productions at the National Theatre (most recently His Girl Friday and Battle Royal), the Royal Shakespeare Company (Trevor Nunn's production of Once in a Lifetime, for which she won an Olivier Award, Othello, Mother Courage and Her Children) and elsewhere.