(Here’s a play we’re following with interest here at Stage Voices—info from Shirley Herz and Bob Lasko.)

Austin Pendleton to play William Shakespeare in Abingdon Theatre Company's Off-Broadway premiere of Robert Brustein's THE LAST WILL Directed by Austin Pendleton

Off-Broadway performances begin April 5 in the June Havoc Theatre.  Opening Wednesday, April 17. Austin Pendleton is set to play William Shakespeare in Abingdon Theatre Company's Off-Broadway premiere of Robert Brustein's THE LAST WILL, which he will also direct, beginning Friday, April 5 in the June Havoc Theatre (312 West 36th Street). Brustein's final installment of his trilogy examining the life of William Shakespeare, THE LAST WILL is set to open on April 17, with performances through May 5. OBIE Award-winner Austin Pendleton replaces actor Peter Cameron who has

left the production.

In THE LAST WILL, William Shakespeare—retired after years of struggle and success in London—suffers from a fatal illness which causes his mind to deteriorate and obscures his ability to distinguish between fact and fiction. As Will wrestles with suspicions, delusions, and family resentments, he longs for forgiveness. As Shakespeare composes his final testament, Richard Burbage tries to persuade him to return to London and to unite again.

Pendleton, who recently appeared Off-Broadway in Classic Stage Company's IVANOV, joins the previously announced cast which includes, Stephanie Roth Haberle as Anne Hathaway; Merritt Janson as Susanna Shakespeare; Jeremiah Kissel as Richard Burbage; Christianna Nelson as Judith Shakespeare; and David Wohl as Francis Collins.

The production has scenic design by Stephen Dobay; lighting design by Travis McHale; costume design by Laura Crow; and sound design by David Margolin Lawson. Production Stage Manager is Mark Hoffner.

As previously announced, THE LAST WILL is set to be presented by Abingdon Theatre Company in the first-ever Wuzhen Theatre Festival, with performances May 15-18, in Wuzhen, China. The play had its world premiere in February 2013, presented by Commonwealth Shakespeare Company of Boston at Suffolk University. In his review for The Boston Globe, Joel Brown called the play "a brisk and compelling 80 minutes."

Robert Brustein's THE LAST WILL is being produced on an Off-Broadway contract, and marks Abingdon Theatre Company's return to the June Havoc Theatre, where it last presented Robert Cary and Benjamin Feldman's INVENTING AVI in 2009.

The two earlier plays in Robert Brustein's Shakespeare trilogy are MORTAL TERROR and THE ENGLISH CHANNEL. A noted New Republic theatre critic and educator, Mr. Brustein returns to Abingdon Theatre Company where THE ENGLISH CHANNEL was presented Off-Broadway in 2008.

In his New York Times review of THE ENGLISH CHANNEL, Jason Zinoman called Brustein "one of the true Renaissance men of the modern stage" and described the play as a "playful, witty comedy." Brustein's other plays include NOBODY DIES ON FRIDAY; THREE FARCES AND A FUNERAL; SPRING FORWARD, FALL BACK; and DEMONS. He founded both Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut and the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Brustein was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 2002 and received a 2010 National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama. He was recently named honorary chairman of the inaugural Wuzhen Theatre Festival.

Austin Pendleton has most recently been represented as a director in New York by IVANOV, featuring Ethan Hawke (Classic Stage Company), LOOK HOMEWARD ANGEL (Mother of Invention), SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER (Mississippi Mud), THE PRICE and A SLIGHT ACHE (both presented at HB Studio, where he teaches acting), THREE SISTERS and UNCLE VANYA (both at Classic Stage Company). In recent years, he has directed TOYS IN THE ATTIC and VIEUX CARRE, both at Pearl Theatre. Last year, he directed DETROIT, by Lisa d'Amour, at the National Theatre of Great Britain, having first directed it in a different production at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre, where he has been a member of the Ensemble for 25 years. His current production at Steppenwolf, THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, plays through April 28. Pendleton has directed extensively at Steppenwolf and acted there, too, most recently as Danforth in THE CRUCIBLE (replacing Francis Guinan, who left to go with the Steppenwolf production of AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY to Broadway), and in Cormac McCarthy's THE SUNSET LIMITED, which then transferred to 59E59 in New York, and then to the Galway Festival in Ireland. His recent acting appearances in New York have included ANOTHER VERMEER by Bruce Robinson and LOVE DRUNK by Romulus Linney, both at Abingdon; MOTHER COURAGE (with Meryl Streep) and ROMEO AND JULIET, both at the Public Theatre in Central Park; and LIMONADE TOUS LES JOURS, by Charles Mee, at the Cell. He has made about 150 movies, and appeared as a regular on such TV series as “Homicide” and “Oz.” He is also a playwright. His plays, all published and all produced in New York and elsewhere, are ORSON'S SHADOW, UNCLE BOB, and BOOTH.

Off-Broadway performances of THE LAST WILL run April 5-May 5 in the June Havoc Theatre (312 West 36th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues): Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 7pm; Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm; and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are $60. For tickets call, 212-868-2055 or visit www.abingdontheatre.org

For more information about Abingdon Theatre Company, visit www.abingdontheatre.org

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