Robert Downey Jr set to make his Broadway debut this year

Actor to star in play written by Pulitzer winner Ayad Akhtar

Shahana Yasmin
Wednesday 08 May 2024 09:45 BST
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Robert Downey Jr is making his Broadway debut in a new play by Pulitzer prize winner Ayad Akhtar.

The play, titled McNeal, will see Downey as the eponymous character Jacob McNeal, a writer grappling with “an estranged son, a new novel, old axes to grind and an unhealthy fascination with artificial intelligence”.

The play will be directed by Tony winner Bartlett Sher, who helmed To Kill a Mockingbird in 2018.

Downey was last seen on stage in 1983 for off-Broadway production American Passion.

“It’s been 40 years since I was last on ‘the boards’, but hopefully I’ll knock the dust off quick,” he said in a statement.

The play will run at Lincoln Centre’s Vivian Beaumont Theatre, with previews set to start from 5 September and opening night on 30 September.

Robert Downey Jr in a still from HBO’s The Sympathizer
Robert Downey Jr in a still from HBO’s The Sympathizer (©HBO)

McNeal will run as a limited engagement till 24 November, and a complete cast list will be announced later.

The official synopsis for McNeal reads: “Good writers borrow, great writers steal. Jacob McNeal is a great writer, one of our greatest, a perpetual candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature.”

“But McNeal also has an estranged son, a new novel, old axes to grind and an unhealthy fascination with Artificial Intelligence.”

“Pulitzer Prize-winner Ayad Akhtar’s new play is a startling and wickedly smart examination of the inescapable humanity – and increasing inhumanity – of the stories we tell.”

The Iron Man star won his first Oscar this year for his portrayal of Lewis Strauss in Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer. He is currently appearing in HBO’s Park Chan-Wook-directed drama miniseries The Sympathizer and is expected to be in Paramount Pictures’ upcoming remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological thriller Vertigo.

Akhtar won a Pulitzer prize for 2012’s Disgraced and a Tony award for 2016’s Junk, and is also known for his plays The Who & the What and The Invisible Hand.

McNeal will have sets by Michael Yeargan and Jake Barton, costumes by Jennifer Moeller, lighting by Donald Holder, sound by Justin Ellington & Beth Lake, projections by Jake Barton, and will be stage managed by Jennifer Rae Moore.

Downey’s production company is producing the play in association with Lincoln Center Theatre.

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