A whole new ballgame

LONDON — Nicole Kidman’s return to the London stage isn’t the only tantalizing aspect of the Donmar Warehouse’s 10th-anniversary season, details of which are due to be announced at the end of the month.

Richard Greenberg looks set to have the world preem of his new play “Take Me Out” at the Covent Garden venue next June in the first co-production between the Donmar and New York’s Public Theater. Joe Mantello has been mentioned to direct.

About a baseball superstar who comes out of the closet, the play, Greenberg says, “is somewhat different” for the prolific 43-year-old dramatist, currently repped in New York on Broadway by his adaptation of “Dance of Death” and Off by “Everett Beekin.” “It’s a three-act play that has an actual plot, which is a fun thing to write from time to time.”

As for the unexpected setting?

Baseball, says Greenberg, “has become this late-blooming passion of mine. I started watching the World Series in 1996, then in ’98, and got really excited. Before long, it had become an obsession.”

Greenberg is no stranger to the Donmar: His “Three Days of Rain” played two successful stands there and went on to be a 2000 Olivier nominee for best play.

Pending the necessary discussions with Equity on both sides of the Atlantic, “Take Me Out” is poised to bring to London an entirely American creative team and a company of 12, requiring an additional £50,000 ($75,000), to facilitate the venture — all donations, says the theater, are welcome.

And with “Take Me Out” due to travel to the Public after a seven-week London run, an earlier Donmar show, John Crowley’s thrilling revival of Christopher Hampton’s “Tales From Hollywood,” is under consideration for an American restaging at the Public. The public is also where Donmar “diva” Clive Rowe was due to mark his American cabaret debut last month at Joe’s Pub, until Sept. 11 nixed the engagement.

Pop star exits ‘Lady’ as Langella heads home

Now you see ’em, now you don’t. Martine McCutcheon played her last Eliza Doolittle Oct. 25 at Theater Royal, Drury Lane, and has since departed Cameron Mackintosh’s smash revival of “My Fair Lady,” to which she was contracted through mid-April.

Her role is being shared among two understudies until Joanna Riding — late of “The Witches of Eastwick” — steps in Dec. 10; Riding, a clear Mackintosh favorite (she was in “Carousel” and the revamped “Martin Guerre” for him, as well), is contracted throughout 2002.

During the musical’s initial stand at the National Theater last spring, McCutcheon ended up performing Eliza less frequently than her first understudy, Alexandra Jay. On the West End, and signed to six perfs a week instead of eight, she missed countless more.

Across the Thames at the Old Vic, Frank Langella departed Ken Ludwig’s “Over the Moon” two weeks early (his last perf was Nov. 3) and has returned home to Manhattan. Langella kept a firm distance from the press during his West End debut, but word has it he was dispirited at appearing in a critically clobbered production playing to 40% capacity. Joan Collins continues as the distaff lead, with Michael Cochrane her new co-star.

‘Lear’ today, gone tomorrow

Richard Harris’ Lear looked like a West End highlight of the coming year, marking the 71-year-old thesp’s return to the London stage for the first time since his acclaimed turn in Pirandello’s “Henry IV” more than a decade ago.

Now, it seems, Harris is having second thoughts — and not just because his would be London’s third Lear within a year, following Julian Glover at Shakespeare’s Globe and Oliver Ford Davies, still to come at the Almeida at King’s Cross. (What’s more, Harris plays a Lear-like gangland don in the new film “My Kingdom.”)

“I couldn’t care less about that,” says Harris of inevitable comparisons. “I mean, I like competition.”

More to the point, the actor told Variety while beating the drum for “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (he plays Dumbledore), is “learning all those lines.”

“There’s a great line of Coriolanus — ‘There is a life elsewhere’ — and that’s what I believe: There’s a life elsewhere,” says Harris, “not in front of a camera, not on stage sweating and huffing and puffing day and night.”

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