A man who works hard and proudly at his job but is forced to compromise endlessly until he reaches a breaking point. Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman? Yup, and also Galileo Galilei, a 17th-century scientist whose discoveries put him at odds with the Catholic Church. Actor Brian Dennehy is giving New York a look at both Willy and Gali this month. He's nearing the end of his Tony-winning run in Salesman at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre, and one night only, Oct. 26, he'll take part in a reading of Bertolt Brecht's The Life of Galileo.
A benefit for The Play Group, a new, not-for-profit theatre company, the Galileo reading will also feature Randall Duk Kim Golden Child), Amy Ryan (As Bees in Honey Drown). John Curless, Kate Buddeke, Jason Fuchs, Keith Charles, Robert Jimenez, Adrien Rieder, Derek Smith, Steve Mize, Will Arnett and Tom Bloom. David Guion will read the stage directions. Two-time Tony nominee, Brian F. O'Byrne (The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Lonesome West) was also in the cast but had to bow out for a last-minute film commitment. The previously-announced Paul Giamatti is also no longer on the roster.
1937's The Life of Galileo tells how the Inquisition pressured the scientist into renouncing his theories, including those that confirmed experiments by Copernicus years earlier. Other works by Brecht include The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Mother Courage and, with composer Kurt Weill, The Threepenny Opera.
Galileo is not unfamiliar material to Dennehy: He performed the title role at the Goodman Theatre in 1986 -- his first collaboration with Death of a Salesman director Robert Falls.
Formed by New York University professor Kate Loewald, producer Jack Temchin and director Mike Ockrent (Crazy For You, Me And My Girl), The Play Group has as its mission both American and international plays, old and new. According to assistant Brooke Hurzstein, the company is currently working on a series of projects for the next 18 months.
For tickets ($25) and information on the Tuesday, Oct. 26, 7:30 PM reading of The Life of Galileo, at the Theatre at St. Peter's Church, 619 Lexington Ave., call (212) 358-3906.
-- By David Lefkowitz