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Revolutionary Road

The Coast of Utopia’s Tony nominees talk about their long, long Russian trek.


From left, Utopia's Jennifer Ehle; Ethan Hawke and Martha Plimpton.  

‘The opportunity for disaster was there,” says André Bishop, artistic director of Lincoln Center Theater, of the monumental apparatus that was The Coast of Utopia. “We would have been in trouble if nobody had wanted to come.” Not only did they want to, but the show—nearly eight hours of Tom Stoppard on the Russian intelligentsia—sold out its run plus a two-month extension and nine all-day marathons (even Thomas Pynchon showed up for one, according to Bishop). Next week, Utopia is up for ten Tonys, five of those for actors Billy Crudup, Ethan Hawke, Brían F. O’Byrne, Martha Plimpton, and Jennifer Ehle. Contrast that with the tepidly received 2002 London production, which Bishop generously calls “a succès d’estime.” “[London] did a wonderful job,” says Jack O’Brien, this production’s director, “but I’m not sure they knew what the hell they had.” O’Brien “made it very important that we be as playful as possible,” says Hawke, who portrayed a fickle anarchist as “someone you recognized—‘Oh, one of those blowhard assholes.’ ” He adds, “I’ve never learned so much from one job, not since Dead Poets Society.” Martha Plimpton seconds that: “All of us are going to be drawing and pulling from this as we go. I think it’s that kind of rare experience.” She shrugs off the idea that it was hard to do. “ ‘Hard’ implies that it’s some kind of awful task,” she says. “It wasn’t hard, ever.” O’Byrne begs to differ. “We had to run with a new way [of working],” he says. “Nothing should be as difficult again.” Ehle, who took a new role in each segment, sounds almost wistful, adding that “everybody feels like they’re all a part of the nominations. It’s a blessing that we get to keep celebrating it and each other.” And O’Brien seems to be basking in it most of all. “We did it better than the Brits,” he says. “We’re incredibly generous—we invite all these actors over, we give them all our prizes. Well, fuck you,” he says, presumably to London. “We did this one head-on, and we knocked it out of the park.”

From left, Brían F. O'Byrne with Josh Hamilton and Jason Butler Harner; Billy Crudup.  


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