Wit, Pulitzer Prize Winner About Life, Death and Poetry, Opens on Broadway; Cynthia Nixon Stars

Manhattan Theatre Club's Broadway production of Margaret Edson's Wit — the Pulitzer Prize-winning title's Broadway debut — opens Jan. 26 following performances from Jan. 5 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Tony Award winner Cynthia Nixon plays a steely poetry professor, Vivian Bearing, facing terminal cancer.

Cynthia Nixon
Cynthia Nixon (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Directed by MTC artistic director Lynne Meadow, the play continues a limited engagement to March 11.

Joining Tony and Emmy Award winner Nixon ("Sex and the City," Rabbit Hole) are Pun Bandhu (Technician), Olivier Award winner Suzanne Bertish (E.M. Ashford), Michael Countryman (Harvey Kelekian/Mr. Bearing), Jessica Dickey (Technician), Chiké Johnson (Technician), Greg Keller (Jason Posner), Carra Patterson (Susie Monahan) and Zachary Spicer (Technician).

Wit, according to MTC, "follows a brilliant and exacting poetry professor (Tony and Emmy Award winner Cynthia Nixon) as she undergoes experimental treatment for cancer. A scholar who devoted her life to academia, she must now face the irony and injustice of becoming the subject of research."

The play had its New York premiere in 1998 receiving universal acclaim and ran Off-Broadway for over 500 performances. It was the most-honored play of the season garnering the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and was named Best Play by the New York Drama Critics Circle, the Drama Desk Awards, the Outer Critics Circle Awards, the Drama League, and the Lucille Lortel Awards.

This is Edson's only play. Even at the height of her fame, she said she had no wish to pursue a playwriting career. Her career is teaching elementary school students.

Cynthia Nixon
photo by Joan Marcus

Nixon told Playbill magazine, for an article in the January issue, that she thought she might be too young for the role of Vivian. ( Kathleen Chalfant was 53 when she originated the part Off-Broadway in 1998.) Nixon said, "Then I thought, 'I don't care — to do that part is great.' The character is 50. I'm 45. We split the difference. We made her 48. She should be of a certain age to have achieved real success and stature in her career. Other than that, I don't think her age matters."

Like Meadow, Nixon is a breast cancer survivor. Her cancer was discovered when she was 40. "It was," she said, "a totally routine examination. What the guy who read the film said was, 'You know, it's so small. I really wouldn't have thought anything of it, but it wasn't on the previous year's mammogram.' I started getting mammograms at 35 because my mother had breast cancer twice. I'm so lucky I didn't start at 40. They wouldn't have noticed it for another year, and who knows how much more advanced it would have been?"

The creative team for the Broadway production includes Santo Loquasto (scenic design), Jennifer von Mayrhauser (costume design), Peter Kaczorowski (lighting design) and Jill BC Du Boff (sound design).

Tickets, priced $57-$116, are available by calling (212) 239-6200, online by visiting www.Telecharge.com or by visiting the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre Box Office (261 W. 47th Street).

For more information visit www.ManhattanTheatreClub.com.

View highlights from the show:

Pun Bandhu, Chiké Johnson, Jessica Dickey, Zachary Spicer, Greg Keller, Cynthia Nixon and Michael Countryman
Pun Bandhu, Chiké Johnson, Jessica Dickey, Zachary Spicer, Greg Keller, Cynthia Nixon and Michael Countryman (Photo by Joan Marcus)