‘Body of Water’ fills casting void

Lahti, Cristofer take over roles Off Broadway

Christine Lahti and Michael Cristofer have stepped in to play a couple questioning their identities in the New York premiere of Lee Blessing’s “A Body of Water,” for Off Broadway company Primary Stages.

The casting rethink represents a swift solution for the production after losing its original leads when a conflict emerged with Margaret Colin’s schedule on “Gossip Girl,” and David Rasche was offered the lead in Manhattan Theater Club’s upcoming Broadway premiere, “To Be or Not to Be.”

“The greatest nightmare is when you wake up to find two out of three of your cast missing, which is what happened to us right on the Labor Day weekend,” said Primary Stages artistic director Andrew Leynse. “But I found you can actually get a lot of work done over Labor Day, so it’s turned out great.”

Lahti’s TV career has long kept her absent from New York stages. Her last Off Broadway run was in Circle Rep’s 1993 staging of Jon Robin Baitz’s “Three Hotels”; on Broadway, she replaced Joan Allen in 1990 in Wendy Wasserstein’s “The Heidi Chronicles.”

Actor-playwright Cristofer’s recent thesping credits include “Trumpery” for Atlantic Theater Company and “Romeo and Juliet” for the Public’s Shakespeare in the Park. His 1993 play, “Breaking Up,” was produced by Primary Stages.

Blessing has reworked “A Body of Water” significantly since its 2006 premiere at San Diego’s Old Globe, tightening the psychological drama from two acts to one. Maria Mileaf directs the play, with previously cast Laura Odeh (“The Rivals”) remaining in the third role of a mysterious stranger who shakes up the lives of the married couple when she shows up on the doorstep of their summer house.

Start of previews for the production has been pushed back from Sept. 30 to Oct. 3; opening date remains set at Oct. 14.

Now in its 24th season, Primary Stages this year will see its first production transfer to Broadway, when Horton Foote’s “Dividing the Estate” opens Nov. 20 at the Booth, shepherded by Lincoln Center Theater.