The upcoming revival of Harold Pinter’s “The Birthday Party” at the Geffen Playhouse has been abruptly called off only two weeks before its official opening. Leaders at the Geffen said that the production, which was to have been directed by William Friedkin, has been postponed to an unspecified future date.
“The Birthday Party” was to have starred Tim Roth in the lead role of a piano player living in a seaside boarding house. The production was scheduled to open Feb. 12, with preview performances beginning on Feb. 4, and run through March 16.
The Geffen declined to elaborate on the postponement, but Friedkin said in an interview that it was due to the departure of actor Steven Berkoff and the inability to find a suitable replacement in the available time.
Berkoff was to have played the role of Goldberg, one of two menacing strangers who interrupts the protagonist’s birthday party.
Berkoff is a British-born actor with extensive stage and screen credits. Friedkin said that rehearsals were underway for about a week before he made the decision to let Berkoff go.
“I have never let an actor go before,” said the director. “I feel bad about it ... but you have to have a great actor in that role, no question.”
He added: “Many of the people we wanted [for the replacement] were not available in time to get this mounted properly. It does need one of the British lions to do this justice."
Friedkin said he is in talks with actors to fill the role, but declined to provide names.
“I don’t want to disappoint the audience and won’t produce anything that isn’t up to my standard,” he said.
Friedkin directed a film version of “The Birthday Party” in 1968. He worked closely with Pinter and said he considered the Nobel Prize-winning dramatist to be a mentor.
In a statement, Geffen artistic director Randall Arney said: “Postponing the run will give us the opportunity to present the best production of ‘The Birthday Party’ to our audiences who have come to expect the highest quality from the Geffen.”
A spokesman for the Geffen said that an additional season offering will be added to the company’s calendar during the summer.
Subscribers will be contacted shortly with information regarding the replacement show. The company said single ticket holders may contact Audience Services at (310) 208-2028.