Underneath all the dazzling details, Tom Stoppard's The Invention of Love, which opened last night at the Lyceum Theatre, is a simple, straightforward play about a man who, on his death, revisits and reconsiders the significant events in his life. Since the man Stoppard has chosen as his main character is A.E. Houseman, a noted 19th century English scholar and author of "A Shropshire Lad" (a poem which has never gone out of print), and since Stoppard as a playwright is noted for his glorious dialogue and at times convoluted plots (which demand that an audience pay attention), at first glance The Invention of Love may appear intimidating.
Granted, people with a working knowledge of classical scholarship, Latin and Greek, and 19th century literary and political history are going to get a few more of the jokes and slyly pointed references. After all, this is Tom Stoppard. But don't let that discourage you. One gets the feeling toward the end of the play that he has merely thrown all that in as a sop to the intellectuals who rather expect that sort of thing from him. Meanwhile, he has provided the rest of us with an absorbing, very funny and emotionally euphoric new play about love, repression, and regret.
Richard Easton, as the dead Houseman, finds the irony and detached amusement necessary as he confronts the mistakes, failures, and regrets of his life. It's a superbly balanced and edited performance, exceeded only by Robert Sean Leonard's as the young, very much alive Houseman, who we see realizing, accepting, and coming to grips with the constraints of that life. David Harbour, as Moses Jackson, Houseman's never to be love, gives a confident performance, strong in small masculine athletic details and emotional innocence, which makes Houseman's obsession understandable and all the more painful to watch.
Of particular note in an outstanding cast are Michael Stuhlbarg as Pollard and Mark Nelson as Chamberlain. As the various movers and shakers in Houseman's life, the performances in mostly multiple roles of Peter McRobbie, Martin Rayner, Paul Hecht, Byron Jennings, Guy Paul, Mireille Enos, and Daniel Davis cannot be faulted.
Jack O'Brien's direction is exactly what is needed, sure, simple, and telling. Bob Crowley's sets and costumes are astonishingly beautiful and wicked little comments in themselves on the play. Brian MacDevitt's lighting is lavish and appropriate. Bob James' original music is exquisite.
There hasn't been a play this ravishing and rewarding on Broadway since Stoppard's Arcadia a few seasons ago. The Invention of Love is a limited engagement through May 27th. Don't miss it!
The Invention of Love by Tom Stoppard. Directed by Jack O'Brien. Starring Richard Easton and Robert Sean Leonard with Daniel Davis, Neal Dodson, Mireille Enos, Julian Gamble, David Harbour, Paul Hetch, Brian Hutchison, Byron Jennings, Aaron Krohn, Andrew McGinn, Peter McRobbie, Matthew Floyd Miller, Caitlin Muelder, Mark Nelson, Guy Paul, Martin Rayner, Peter A. Smith, Michael Stuhlbarg, David Turner, Jeff Weiss. Sets and costumes by Bob Crowley. Lighting by Brian MacDevitt. Sound by Scott Lehrer. Original music by Bob James. A Lincoln Center Theater production.
Theatre: Lyceum Theatre, 149 West 45th Street between Broadway and 6th Avenue
Audience: Children under 4 are not permitted in the theatre.
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes, with one 15 minute intermission
Schedule: Tuesday through Saturday 8 PM, Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM, Sunday at 3 PM
Ticket prices: Orchestra $60, Mezzanine $60 and $50, Balcony $30 A $1.25 Facilities Fee will be added to the price of each ticket. The Facilities Fee is applicable at all points of sale.
Tickets online: Tele-charge
Tickets by phone: Tele-charge, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - Inside the NY metro area (212) 239-2969 Outside the NY metro area (888) 268-2020
Tickets in person: Box Office hours Monday through Saturday 10 AM to 8 PM, Sunday Noon to 6 PM
Tickets or questions by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tickets by snail mail: The Invention of Love, PO Box 998, Times Square Station, New York, NY 10108-0998 Each order must include an additional $1.25 per ticket facilities fee.