Harold Pinter's Ashes to Ashes finally receives its American premiere, beginning previews Jan. 19, 1999 for a Feb. 7 opening. The show stars Lindsay Duncan (of the original London cast) and David Strathairn (Eyes For Consuela, Hapgood).
Ashes, set in a university town outside London, is a two-character play about a faltering marriage.
Pinter's plays are known for taking everyday situations and imbuing them with an air of mystery and menace. His plays often feature characters with ambiguous, unexplained backgrounds and/or motivations. Pinter is the author of such classic twentieth century plays as The Dumb Waiter, Betrayal, The Birthday Party, The Homecoming, The Caretaker, and Old Times.
Roundabout also had the New York premiere of the last new Pinter play to hit the States in 1995, with Moonlight, starring Jason Robards and Blythe Danner. Karel Reisz, who directed the Roundabout Moonlight, directs Ashes.
Ashes plays at Off-Broadway's Gramercy Theatre, where Roundabout has just taken a year-long lease (with a one year option to renew). Roundabout's current home at Times Square's Criterion Center (1530 Broadway) was threatened when the building's owner, Charles B. Moss Jr., decided to sell the building, giving Roundabout until April '99 to find a new home. The Roundabout began scrambling, eventually making a deal with the New 42nd Street to take up residence in the old Selwyn Theatre. However, the restoration of the Selwyn may not be completed until early 2000, effectively leaving the Roundabout homeless for up to a year. The real estate deal for the Criterion Center that Moss was working on with publishing giant Bertelsmann A.G, fell through in early December, giving Roundabout hope they may stay there until the Selwyn is completed.
The path to New York has been a long one for Ashes. The play opened at London's Royal Court Theatre in September 1996 with Pinter directing, and Stephen Rea (Someone Who'll Watch Over Me, "The Crying Game") co starring with Duncan. Delays first came over whether or not Pinter would direct the NY production. Then rumors flew that Roundabout was seeking Miranda Richardson for the Duncan role. Scheduling conflicts for individuals involved with the original production pushed the NY date back further and further.
However, the show was confirmed by a Roundabout spokesperson as being on the Laura Pels schedule for early 1999. More questions remained when the Pels season appeared to be overbooked -- due to the currently-running Beth Henley play, Impossible Marriage, Paula Vogel's Mineola Twins, and Richard Greenberg's Hurrah at Last, all slated for the 1998-99 season.
Twins had originally been slated for the Laura Pels, but when the season brochure was released it was marked for a "venue to be determined." Speculation is that Vogel winning last year's Pulitzer, and the ability to snag a "name" star in Swoosie Kurtz, gave Mineola the edge over Ashes.
Harold Pinter's Ashes to Ashes begins previews at the Gramercy Theatre Jan. 19, for open-ended run opening Feb. 7, 1999.