Forest Whitaker Sets Broadway Debut in 'Hughie'

AP
Forest Whitaker

The Oscar-winning veteran will star in the spring in Michael Grandage's production of the Eugene O'Neill two-hander.

Forest Whitaker will make his Broadway debut this season, playing the role of a drunken small-time hustler revisiting his glory days in a revival of Eugene O'Neill's Hughie.

Brit director Michael Grandage will stage the production, which reassembles the design team of Christopher Oram (sets and costumes), Neil Austin (lighting) and Adam Cork (sound), all of whom won Tony Awards in 2010 for Red, as did Grandage.

Written in 1942 and first produced in 1958, the hour-long O'Neill play is essentially a monologue piece set in a West Side midtown Manhattan hotel in summer 1928. The character to be played by Whitaker, Erie Smith, laments the death of the hotel night clerk Hughie, regaling his successor with tales of their shared past.

Jason Robards starred in the play's first Broadway production in 1964, and the part has also served as a vehicle for Burgess Meredith, Ben Gazzara, Al Pacino and Brian Dennehy, among others. Whitaker's casting in the role traditionally played by a white actor continues the trend of a Broadway season already notable for the prevalence of diversity casting.

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The production will play a limited engagement at a Shubert Theatre to be announced, with exact dates for the spring 2016 run remaining to be scheduled. Darren Bagert, the Michael Grandage Company and the Shubert Organization will present the play on Broadway. Casting of the drama's secondary role also is to be announced.

Hughie marks the second O'Neill play of the 2015-16 season, alongside Roundabout's production of Long Day's Journey Into Night, starring Jessica Lange, Gabriel Byrne, Michael Shannon and John Gallagher Jr., which begins performances March 31.

A best actor Oscar winner in 2007 for The Last King of Scotland, Whitaker was recently seen onscreen in Southpaw; his upcoming film projects include Star Wars: Rogue One. He joins a starry roster of actors taking their first Broadway bows this season, including Keira Knightley, Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, Jennifer Hudson, Marlee Matlin, Ben Whishaw, Saoirse Ronan, George Takei and Mark Strong.

In addition to Red, which starred Alfred Molina and Eddie Redmayne, Grandage's Broadway directing credits include Frost/Nixon with Frank Langella and Michael Sheen, Hamlet with Jude Law, and The Cripple of Inishmaan with Daniel Radcliffe.

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