Lydia, a young heiress, is the fulcrum of the comedy's various intrigues. Obsessed with romantic novels, she renounced material values and falls for a poor soldier named Ensign Beverly (Letscher). The soldier is, however, in reality, Captain Jack Absolute, who has donned the disguise to win Lydia's heart.
Brian Murray, Keira Naughton, Carrie Preston, Jeremy Shamos, Richard Easton, Dana Ivey and Jim True-Frost are also in the cast. Mark Lamos directs the Lincoln Center Theater production. The show will open Dec. 16.
LCT stalwart Murray ( Racing Demon, Little Foxes) will play the juicy role of the hot-tempered Sir Lucius O'Trigger. Shamos is Bob Acres. Naughton (James' daughter) is Lucy and Preston portrays Julia. And True Frost, a member of Steppenwolf Theatre Company, is Faukland. Richard Easton will play Sir Anthony Absolute and Dana Ivey will take on the classic comedy part of Mrs. Malaprop.
Bergl recently made an impression as the vengeful mistress at the center of Fiction, an Off-Broadway production of the Roundabout Theatre Company.
The Rivals is suddenly popular among the nation's nonprofits. D.C.'s Shakespeare Theatre produced it in summer 2003 and Boston's Huntington Theatre has scheduled it for January 2005. Penned in 1775, The Rivals was Richard Brinsley Sheridan's first play and is, next to School for Scandal, his most famous. The play contains some of the choicest roles in the classical repertory, including Captain Jack Absolute, Sir Lucius O'Trigger and Bob Acres, and one immortal character, Mrs. Malaprop, a woman who uses long words, but always to the wrong purpose. The name begat the word "Malapropism."
The Rivals has not been performed on Broadway since 1942, when Eva LeGallienne directed it for the Theatre Guild. (Le Gallienne had acted in a 1923 Broadway version.) Prior to that, producer George C. Tyler gave the public Mrs. Fiske as Mrs. Malaprop.