‘Rapture’ redux

Strands

LONDON — Who says the West End is nothing but fluff and filler?

On the eve of the London commercial bow of Harold Pinter’s “Betrayal,” opening at the Duchess Oct. 8 following three stagings in the subsidized sector, comes news of London’s first commercial sighting of “The Secret Rapture,” the David Hare play that stormed the National in 1988.

Bill Kenwright will produce director Guy Retallack‘s new production, with a 12-week stand to start Nov. 5 at the Lyric, opening the following week. The revival fills the gap left by a Matthew Warchus-helmed revival of Tennessee Williams’ “The Night of the Iguana” — John Cusack had been under discussion for that one — that now looks most likely to happen next fall.

Boasting three juicy female roles, “Rapture” had as of press time not yet pinned down its cast. But some of the names under discussion include Julia Ormond and Jenny Seagrove. (A third J, “Absolutely Fabulous” star Julia Sawalha, has passed.)

This is the play, you may remember, whose published text is dedicated to Blair Brown, the New York thesp (and onetime girlfriend of Hare) who starred in the short-lived 1989 Broadway run that sparked the now-famous exchange of letters between Hare and the New York Times’ then-chief drama critic, Frank Rich.

That exchange, in turn, inspired a memorable Variety headline: “Ruffled Hare Airs Rich Bitch.”

Choice Role

In the cut — or is it ‘Cat’?

Speaking of Kenwright, why isn’t Mark Ruffalo co-starring with Ashley Judd on Broadway this fall in the Brit producer’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” having been long rumored as the production’s hoped-for Brick? (Jason Patric has inherited the role.)

Strands found out: “That was a tortuous decision,” says Ruffalo, speaking during a London stopover to promote pic “In the Cut,” in which he plays Meg Ryan‘s romancer — and, quite possibly, her slayer. Brick, says Ruffalo, “is a beautiful role, and I really felt I had something to contribute to it.”

But making his first-ever decision, the actor says, “outside my heart’s desire,” Ruffalo had to put family before work. His wife, Sunrise, is opening an L.A. design store called Caviar & Kind on, yes, Sunset, “so she has to be there,” and Ruffalo was reluctant to be away from her and their 2-year-old son, Keen.

The theater gig, he says, “would have meant six months away from them,” however much he would have liked to make his Broadway debut in company, and in a play, that Ruffalo says “is about as good as it gets.” You believe Ruffalo when he refers to the production as “the one that got away.”

‘Top’ Dog

Boffo biz

The figures are in for the Royal Court’s August U.K. preem of Suzan-Lori Parks’ “Topdog/Underdog” in the Pulitzer Prize-winner’s Broadway staging, and they make happy reading, indeed. The 3½-week run of the play grossed just shy of $200,000 — not Broadway sums, perhaps, but mighty impressive for 25 performances in an Off West End venue with a ticket price and seating capacity well below the Broadway norm. The average price paid per ticket was near the $21 mark, a Court record (just exceeding “Hitchcock Blonde”), while the 97% average attendance is a Court near-best, surpassed of late only by Caryl Churchill’s “A Number” and David Hare’s “My Zinc Bed.”

What’s more, the reviews very much put co-stars Mos Def and Jeffrey Wright on an equal footing, in contrast with the same play’s spring 2002 Broadway stand that somewhat gave Wright the edge — and the Tony nod. (Def, gaining added visibility from the concurrent opening in Blighty of film “The Italian Job,” reportedly was a popular figure with the post-show crowd at the Court’s downstairs bar.)

Nor is George C. Wolfe’s production necessarily London history. Although the cast has long since packed its bags, the pair could be reunited for a West End run; after all, there was an eight-month gap between this play’s Off Broadway and Broadway engagements.

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