‘Goat’ eyes new pasture

Play may graze Almeida on way to London Pasture

LONDON — Edward Albee’s Tony-winning “The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?” looks set to bleat its way to London early in 2004, opening a limited engagement in January at north London’s Almeida Theater before a hoped-for West End transfer.

Tony winner Anthony Page (“A Doll’s House”) will direct the production, his third Albee venture after hit West End versions of “Three Tall Women” and “A Delicate Balance,” both starring Maggie Smith.

No casting has yet been announced for “The Goat,” though the principal roles are expected to go to Brits. Janet McTeer and Fiona Shaw are among the names that have been bandied about in early casting discussions for the female lead, which brought Mercedes Ruehl a 2002 Tony nom for best actress and later won raves for Sally Field, the latter in her Broadway debut.

The Albee effect

Albee has his own relationship with the Almeida, where Howard Davies directed a smash revival of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” with Diana Rigg and David Suchet, which went on to West End acclaim. He also helmed the Almeida’s world preem of “The Play About the Baby.”

British producer Lee Dean is in place to transfer “The Goat” into the West End if, per Elizabeth I. McCann, one of the show’s New York producers, “there has been enough excitement (at the Almeida) to bring the play in.”

Jan. 22 opening

Though it is still early, initial plans are for an Almeida opening on or around Jan. 22 for a run of six or seven weeks, the Almeida norm.

“The Goat” represents a real coup for the Almeida, since the play was in considerable demand in Britain even before it won the 2002 Tony, beating, among others, “Fortune’s Fool” and “Topdog/Underdog.” Among interested parties in England was Peter Hall, who was eyeing the play for an out-of-town season at the Theater Royal in Bath, as well as north London’s Hampstead Theater, where it could have been the final production in the regime of that playhouse’s departing a.d. Jenny Topper.

With Page now on vacation in Turkey, casting won’t begin for several weeks. Nor is it clear whether the play will be relocated to Britain, since there is nothing peculiarly or indigenously American about the story of a married man who falls hard for a goat.

After all, as everyone knows, the Brits do like their animals.

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