Al Pacino Heads Back to Broadway in David Mamet's 'China Doll'

Fabrizio Maltese
Al Pacino

The playwright describes his new work, written for the Oscar-, Tony- and Emmy-winning actor, as "better than oral sex"

The combination of Al Pacino and David Mamet left critics underwhelmed in the 2012 Broadway revival of Glengarry Glen Ross. But the sellout run proved impervious to lukewarm reviews, with the limited engagement grossing more than $14 million in less than three months.

The same producers will reunite with the actor and playwright next season on the new play China Doll, which will begin performances in October 2015 at a Shubert theater to be announced.

"For me over the years the relationship and the collaboration with David Mamet has been one of the richest and most rewarding," said Pacino in a statement. "We’ve done four projects together and the opportunity to create a new character in the David Mamet canon was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.  So Dave gave me China Doll, a new play he had written for me and it blew me away… one of the most daunting and challenging roles I’ve been given to explore onstage. It’s a special gift to originate a role in the theatre, especially written by such a formidable writer, and I haven’t done that in a long, long time."

The production will be directed by Pam MacKinnon, whose Broadway credits include the Pulitzer Prize-winning Clybourne Park, and the 2012 revival of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, for which she won a Tony Award for best direction of a play.

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MacKinnon this season will stage the revival of Albee’s A Delicate Balance, whose all-star cast includes Glenn Close, John Lithgow, Lindsay Duncan, Clare Higgins, Martha Plimpton and Bob Balaban. That production begins previews Oct. 20 at the John Golden Theatre.

Mamet often reveals only cryptic advance details about his new plays. However, he is uncharacteristically forthcoming about this project in the following statement:

"China Doll is a play about a wealthy man, his young fiancé, and an airplane. The man has just bought a new plane as a wedding present for the girl. He intends to go into semiretirement, and enjoy himself. He's in the process of leaving his office, and is giving last minute instructions to his young assistant. He takes one last phone call…

The characters are Mickey Ross, a billionaire; Carson, the assistant, and a telephone. I wrote it for Al. It is better than oral sex."

Lead producers on the show are Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel and Steve Traxler, marking their eighth presentation of a Mamet work. Additional cast, creative team and official dates are to be announced.