Brian F. O'Byrne Will Star in Stoppard's Coast of Utopia

News   Brian F. O'Byrne Will Star in Stoppard's Coast of Utopia
Actor Brian F. O'Byrne will star in the fall 2006 U.S. debut of Tom Stoppard's ambitious three-part play known as The Coast of Utopia, a spokesman for Lincoln Center Theater confirmed June 19.

Brian F. O'Bryne will star in The Coast of Utopia.
Brian F. O'Bryne will star in The Coast of Utopia. Photo by Amy Ryan

O'Byrne, an in-demand stage actor in recent seasons, is currently on Broadway in Shining City. He won a Tony Award for Frozen and also starred in Doubt both Off-Broadway and on. In Utopia, he will play Alexander Herzen. Stephen Dillane essayed the part in London.

Lincoln Center Theater did not confirm a Variety report that had Ethan Hawke also joining the cast.

Hawke appeared in Jack O'Brien's Lincoln Center mounting of Henry IV. More recently, he starred in the praised Off-Broadway revival of Hurlyburly.

The trilogy will begin on Oct. 17 with the first performance of the first part, Voyage. All three parts will have opened and concluded their runs by March 3, 2007. The parts will open separately, one after another. They will begin to play in rep later in the schedule.

Individual preview and opening dates are as follows: Part One – Voyage
Previews begin: Tuesday, October 17
Opening night: Sunday, November 5

Part Two – Shipwreck
Previews begin: Tuesday, Dec. 5
Opening night: Thursday, Dec. 21

Part Three – Salvage
Previews begin: Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2007
Opening Night: Thursday, Feb. 15, 2007

During the final three-and one-half weeks of the production’s run, audiences will have the opportunity to see all three parts in succession. Also, on three Saturdays—Feb. 24, March 3 and March 10—theatergoers will be able to see all three plays in one-day marathons beginning at 11 AM.

The play will have sets by Bob Crowley and Scott Pask, costumes by Catherine Zuber, lighting by Natasha Katz, Brian MacDevitt and Kenneth Posner and original music and sound design by Mark Bennett.

Jack O'Brien, the Broadway director of Hairspray, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Henry IV and The Invention of Love, will helm the New York bow of the nine-hour Coast of Utopia triptych.

The works first appeared under the direction of Trevor Nunn in 2002 at the National Theatre in England.

The Coast of Utopia is centered on the political and philosophical idealism and debates of mid-nineteenth-century Russia, examining the movements that excited artists and thinkers in those days. The show moves chronologically on from the 1830s, when the great Romantic poet Pushkin was still alive and his epic poem "Eugene Onegin" was all the rage in educated circles.

The main characters are the anarchist Michael Bakunin (played by Douglas Henshall in London) who was to challenge Marx (played by Paul Ritter) for the soul of the masses; Ivan Turgenev (played by Guy Henry), author of some of the most enduring works in Russian literature; the brilliant, erratic young critic Vissarion Belinsky (played by Will Keen); and Alexander Herzen (played by Stephen Dillane).

LCT has produced Stoppard's Hapgood and Arcadia.

Stoppard, O'Brien previously told, "is doing an enormous amount of work on the script, and he's been wonderfully collaborative about that. Don't forget, they were staging it while he was writing it. It's a trilogy…so it really does need a little distance by everybody, including Tom. I think he, in his own words, was ready to what he called 'take it back' and rethink it. He's done a lot of that."

"I'm very excited about it," O'Brien told "I've been lucky with Tom's work because I've had the advantage of going to school on great directors like Richard Eyre and Trevor Nunn and seeing what they've done. Tom's pieces always take a lot of time to absorb and sift down. He's arguably the greatest writer of our century, for the stage. Doing them off the top of your head, it's very hard to conceive that. So I'm very grateful that I've got this time to sift it down and work with [designer Bob] Crowley [of The Invention of Love] again and sort of see what we can come up with."

O'Brien said it was accurate to view the planned New York staging as the world premiere of the revised version of the works. "It won't be the nine hours [it was in England]," he said. "I'm hoping to get at least an hour out of it. It's three evenings. The 'marathon' [of all three together] will only be able to be done once or twice. In a week, I don't think you can sustain that much."

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