When The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window completed its Off-Broadway run at Brooklyn Academy of Music, stars Oscar Isaac and Rachel Brosnahan thought that was the end of their production. But the show became a last-minute addition to the Broadway season, and the pair are reflecting on how they continue to re-examine the Lorraine Hansberry play.
Opening April 27, the revival follows Sidney and Iris Brustein (Isaac and Brosnahan), a couple with a passionate and sometimes tense marriage living among the artists, politicians, and activists in New York City's 1960s West Village. The play explores what it means to be engaged with the world all the time. Hansberry also delivers a portrait of the complexities and pitfalls of predominantly white bohemian intellectualism. Previews began April 25 at the James Earl Jones Theatre.
Brosnahan believes the play is really “grounded” in how it explores masculinity and femininity, particularly through Iris and Sidney. “In some ways, they're really progressive and in some ways, their relationship is really regressive in terms of how their gender roles play into it. But it feels like every night we sort of take a different swing at it, which has been really fun and challenging,” she says.
For Isaac, “There isn't an easy sign ‘Oh, this is wrong and that person is the bad guy and that person is the good guy.’ It switches and I think [Hansberry's] able to show even the most progressive people's blind spots that they don't have the perception or the self-awareness to see.” Watch the video above to also find out what questions they would ask Lorraine Hansberry if they had the chance.
Director Anne Kauffman previously helmed a production at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre in 2016. But her journey with The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window has been much longer. “I've been with this play for about 20 years,” she said. “And every single year, there's something different about the play that captures my imagination to explore—a different kind of emotional terrain from year to year. It's that layered and complex and fun and tragic.”
Kauffman, Brosnahan, and Isaac all believe that the play resonates strongly with conversations happening today. Even more than that for Kauffman, “It feels comforting in a way. On the one hand, it's sad that some of the issues in the play still haven't been resolved. But there's also some kind of comfort in knowing that our community has, over generations, struggled with similar things.”
See the cast take their first Broadway bows in the gallery below.
The complete company from the BAM run has stayed with the production for its Broadway bow, including Gus Birney as Gloria Parodus, Julian De Niro as Alton Scales, Glenn Fitzgerald as David Ragin, Andy Grotelueschen as Wally O'Hara, Miriam Silverman as Mavis Parodus Bryson, and Raphael Nash Thompson as Max. Rounding out the company as understudies are Gregory Connors, Brontë England-Nelson, Joey Auzenne, and Katya Campbell.
Kauffman's Broadway creative team includes scenic designer dots, costume designer Brenda Abbandandolo, lighting designer John Torres, sound designer Bray Poor, hair and wig designer Leah Loukas, and movement director Sonya Tayeh. Ralph Stan Lee is production stage manager, and casting is by Taylor Williams. Arminda Thomas serves as dramaturg.
Lorraine Hansberry died just three months after The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window began its debut on Broadway in 1964. But even in her last days, she was revising the script from her sick bed based on notes brought over from the theatre. The work, in some ways, can be considered unfinished—Hansberry faced so many challenges in its final stages. That’s one of the reasons it’s not as well-known as her A Raisin in the Sun. BAM's production was its first major New York revival—a 1972 Broadway return ran for just 5 performances.
Below, see Natasha Lyonne, Larry Owens, Ronan Farrow, and more celebrities at the opening night of The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window.
The Broadway bow is produced by Seaview, Sue Wagner, John Johnson, Jeremy O. Harris, Joi Gresham, and Brooklyn Academy of Music, with Phil Kenny, Audible, Sony Music Masterworks, Jillian Robbins, Larry Hirschhorn and Ricardo Hornos, Shields Smedes Stern Ltd., Kevin Ryan, The Shubert Organization, Willette and Manny Klausner, Marco Santarelli, Be Forward Productions, Concord Theatricals, Creative Partners Productions, Invisible Wall Productions, Salman and Moudhy Al-Rashid, TodayTix Group, Ido Gal, HarrisDonnelly, Sally Cade Holmes, Stella LaRue, LAMF Protozoa, Kati Meister and John Sorkin, Meredith Lynsey Schade, Catherine Schreiber, Dennis Trunfio, 42nd.club, BAMM Productions, CarterMackTaylorWillman, HB2M Productions, HK-Undivided Productions, MAJIKK Theatricals, Tanker Kollev Productions, Douglas Denoff, OHenry Productions, Plate Spinner Productions, Runyonland Productions, Mad Gene Media, and Scrap Paper Pictures serving as co-producers.