Looks ahead as Tyrone, Altman loom

LONDON — Kevin Spacey hasn’t even begun his second Old Vic season yet, but Thursday he announced plans to star in the opening show of season three, playing Jim Tyrone in Eugene O’Neill’s “A Moon for the Misbegotten.”

Production, due a year from now, will reunite Spacey with helmer Howard Davies, who directed Spacey in the O’Neill classic “The Iceman Cometh” to great acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. The hope is that Bob Crowley, who designed “Iceman,” will return for “Moon”; Nica Burns, Max Weitzenhoffer, and Elliot Martin are co-producing.

Project was one of several headline-grabbers unveiled by Spacey and his producer, David Liddiment. In February, film director Robert Altmanwill direct the U.K. premiere of Arthur Miller’s “Resurrection Blues” to mark the first anni of its author’s death. It’s a co-production with Scott Griffin.

Whereas Spacey was involved in three of the four productions during his inaugural Old Vic season, he will only be directly connected his sophomore year to season opener “Richard II.” Trevor Nunn’s production, starting a 10-week-run Sept. 14, is Spacey’s largest Shakespearean gig to date — and one of the few Bard entries Nunn has never done.

“I don’t want to overplay my hand,” said the actor, explaining his somewhat lower profile across season two. “I want the Old Vic to be a place people want to come, not necessarily because I’m onstage.”

The point, he continued, is “to allow the novelty of my being onstage to shift a little bit, so the theater is not entirely on my shoulders.”

To that end, the 2005-06 lineup segues from “Richard II” to the return of Ian McKellen and Roger Allam in holiday pantomime “Aladdin,” again directed by Sean Mathias, and then “Resurrection Blues,” for which an Anglo-American cast is expected. The fourth production will be one of three plays, with Arnold Wesker two-hander “Groupie” among those being considered.

As an extra event, for 11 perfs Jan. 26-Feb 4, the Vic will host a new version of Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale,” with a mixed Anglo-Iraqi cast; Andrew Steggall directs.

Spacey spoke of the pressure during the first season of “doing double duty” — rehearsing “The Philadelphia Story” while acting in “National Anthems” and then rehearsing “Richard II” while in the Philip Barry play.

“I like the idea that we’re now bringing in other artists, other actors, so that these productions stand or fall on their own two feet,” he said.

And though critics often balked at the opening year’s work, attendance averaged 70% overall: “Aladdin,” at 95% capacity, was the biggest seller, followed by “Philadelphia” (85%), “Anthems” (70%), and season opener “Cloaca” (50%), helmed by Spacey.

“I’m pretty pleased where we are in that respect,” said Liddiment of an enterprise that receives no state subsidy. “We’ve recouped; we’re in good shape.”

How has Spacey dealt with criticism of his repertoire to date? (“Moon for the Misbegotten” directly addresses U.K. crix’ suggestion that Spacey re-connect to the classic American canon, “Iceman”-style.) “As I’ve said in the past and probably will say in the future, I walked into the job fully expecting” a mixed response, he said.

“Occasionally, they’ll be on our side, our friends on the aisle, and sometimes they won’t.” What matters, Spacey added, stressing his long-term commitment to the job, is that “I’m having the time of my life.

“It’s too early in the game to look back; I’m really looking forward.”

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