Jake Gyllenhaal Makes U.S. Stage Debut in If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet, Opening Sept. 20 in NYC

By Kenneth Jones
September 20, 2012

The American premiere of Nick Payne's If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet, featuring Annie Funke, Michelle Gomez, Tony Award winner Brían F. O'Byrne and Oscar nominee Jake Gyllenhaal as a drifter uncle, opens Sept. 20 following previews from Aug. 24 at Off-Broadway's Laura Pels Theatre.



Michael Longhurst (making his New York debut) directs the Roundabout Theatre Company production that marks "Brokeback Mountain" Academy Award nominee Gyllenhaal's American stage debut. This is a limited engagement of 13 weeks through Nov. 25.

The play first surfaced at the Bush Theatre in England in 2009. Here's how the new work is billed by the nonprofit Roundabout: "Provocative, insightful and laced with fresh humor, If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet is an entertaining look at a regular family stuck somewhere between knowing what the problem is... and doing something about it. Fifteen-year-old Anna's (Funke) weight makes her a natural target for bullies. When her mom (Gomez) transfers Anna to the school where she teaches in order to protect her daughter, it only makes things worse. Anna's environmentalist dad (O'Byrne), determined to finish his new book and save the planet, is no help at all. Just as Anna gets suspended for retaliating with a head-butt, her estranged uncle Terry (Gyllenhaal) arrives unannounced. A heartbroken drifter with the mouth of a sailor, Terry reaches out to Anna in a way that no one ever has. Their unexpected friendship sends her parents' rocky marriage into a tailspin as the whole family wonders, what — or who — really needs saving?"

"I fell in love with the character at the start," Gyllenhaal told Playbill magazine in a story that appears in the September issue. "He brings a sadness to the play, and I'm drawn to that darkness. He's a real avoider, like everyone in the play. Perhaps that disconnection is what connected me to him. I love his techniques of avoiding, how he speaks in short sentences and unfinished thoughts. The way each character talks looks differently on the page. I love the architecture of the words."

So what if his character comes with a British accent? "I've played British characters before," he said. "I've spent, accumulatively, about two years in London, and a majority of my very close friends are British. It comes somewhat naturally. I gravitate toward roles with accents. The voice is a wonderful way into the eternal life of the character."

The design team includes Beowulf Boritt (sets), Susan Hilferty (costumes), Natasha Katz (lighting) and Obadiah Eaves (original music and sound).

Brían F. O'Byrne and Michelle Gomez
photo by Joan Marcus

Gyllenhaal is best known as the film actor of "Love and Other Drugs" and "Brokeback Mountain." Funke appeared in Broadway's Hairspray and the San Francisco company of Wicked, plus Off-Broadway's Silence! The Musical. Gomez (The Taming of the Shrew for Royal Shakespeare Company, West End's Boeing-Boeing) plays Fiona, Gyllenhaal is Terry, O'Byrne (the Irish actor who won a Tony for Frozen and was nominated four other times — for The Coast of Utopia, Doubt, The Lonesome West and The Beauty Queen of Leenane) is George.

Gyllenhaal made his stage debut starring in Kenneth Lonergan's revival of This Is Our Youth, on London's West End. For his performance he won an Evening Standard Theater Award for Outstanding Newcomer. (His sister, Maggie, has been applauded for performances in Off-Broadway's The Three Sisters and Uncle Vanya, both for Classic Stage Company). He was Academy Award-nominated and won BAFTA and National Board of Review awards for his performance as Jack Twist in Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain." His film credits also include "Source Code," "Love and Other Drugs" (for which he received a Golden Globe nomination), the coming "End of Watch," "Donnie Darko," "Brothers," "Zodiac," "Jarhead," "Proof," "The Good Girl," "Moonlight Mile," "Lovely and Amazing," "October Sky."

O'Byrne is an Emmy Award nominee for his work in HBO's "Mildred Pierce." On television, he starred with Mario Bello in "Prime Suspect" for ABC, as well as the critically acclaimed Showtime series "Brotherhood" and ABC's "FlashForward." His film credits include "The International," "Brooklyn's Finest," "Bug," "No Reservations," "Before The Devil Knows You're Dead," "The New World," "Million Dollar Baby," "Bandits," "An Everlasting Piece" and "The Grey Zone" among others. O'Byrne trained at the Samuel Beckett Center, Trinity College in Dublin.

"Nick Payne is an exciting young voice in the British Theatre, and I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to introduce him to American audiences," Roundabout artistic director Todd Haimes said in a previous statement. "I was first familiar with Nick through his play Constellations, a brilliant piece directed by Michael Longhurst that just completed an acclaimed run at the Royal Court. When I read If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet, I knew that not only did Nick have great range as a playwright, but that this was a perfect fit for the Laura Pels Theatre."

On July 9, British playwright Payne was named recipient of the Harold Pinter Award.

Payne's plays include If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet (Bush Theatre, 2009), Wanderlust (Royal Court Theatre, 2010), Sophocles' Electra (Gate Theatre, 2011), One Day When We Were Young (Paines Plough/Sheffield Theatres, 2011), Constellations (Royal Court Theatre, 2012), Lay Down Your Cross (Hampstead Theatre, 2012). He is the winner of the 2009 George Devine Award for Most Promising Playwright.

If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet plays Tuesday through Saturday evening at 7:30 PM, with Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 PM.

Visit roundabouttheatre.org or call (212) 719-1300 for more information. 

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Jake Gyllenhaal and Brķan F. O'Byrne
Photo by Joan Marcus