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Nathan Lane to make his Eugene O'Neill debut in Chicago

July 14, 2011 |  5:18 pm

Nathanlane Nathan Lane, one of Broadway's most bankable names and the original star of both “The Addams Family” and “The Producers,” will appear alongside Brian Dennehy next spring at Chicago's Goodman Theatre in Eugene O'Neill's epic drama “The Iceman Cometh,” directed by Goodman artistic director Robert Falls.

“Nathan had approached me about wanting to work on an O'Neill play,” Falls said, “and I have finally  been able to put together this project I have been working on for three years. I think this is the greatest American play.”

In a telephone interview, Lane said he felt ready for “a healthy vacation from the Broadway theater scene” and was wanting to take his first crack at a major O'Neill role, ideally working (for the first time) with Falls and appearing alongside Dennehy, a longtime friend.

“I thought that if I was going to climb this mountain I should do it in a city where I feel comfortable, and with people with whom I feel comfortable,” Lane said.

Written in 1939 and first performed on Broadway in 1946, “The Iceman Cometh” is set in a Greenwich Village saloon and rooming house in 1912. The work follows a group of drunks and delusional dreamers and is known for its emotional intensity and dark depiction of the human condition.

Its lead role of Theodore “Hickey” Hickman, which Lane will play, is one of the most daunting roles in the American dramatic canon and has been played by the likes of Jason Robards and, in the 1973 film version, Lee Marvin. In the 1999 Broadway revival, Hickey was played by Kevin Spacey.

Falls last directed the play at the Goodman in 1990, with Dennehy playing Hickey. In this new production, the frequent Falls collaborator will play the role of Larry Slade.

At this juncture, Falls' “Iceman” will be purely a Goodman production staged expressly in and for Chicago. “I am not thinking of this as some pre-Broadway tryout,” Lane said. “I just want it to be good in Chicago.”

That said, any production starring Lane will attract New York and international attention. Producer Scott Rudin, who keeps a close eye on Chicago theater, currently holds the Broadway rights to the title and is aware of what is to happen in Chicago.

Lane reportedly earned $100,000 per week for “The Addams Family.” This newest project does not offer comparable financial rewards. Lane and Dennehy, Falls said, will work for the Goodman's usual scale.

-- Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

Above: Nathan Lane at a film premiere in Los Angeles in 2008. Credit:  EPA / Paul Buck