In a new video for the play, Owen steps into the shoes of Rene Gallimard — a French diplomat who finds himself in a 20-year romance with Chinese opera singer Song Liling (who, unbeknownst to Gallimard, has a secret of her own).
“I sat night after night watching our story play through my head, one where she returns at least to my arms,” Owen says in the clip, staring at the camera as Liling appears to rise from below him. “For I have known, and been loved by, the perfect woman.”
Hwang’s play premiered on Broadway in 1988 — winning three Tonys (including Best Play) and running for nearly two years. The original cast was led by John Lithgow.
The revival, which comes nearly 30 years after its premiere, will begin preview performances at New York City’s Cort Theatre on Oct. 7, with an opening set for Oct. 26. It will be directed by Tony winner Julie Taymor — of The Lion King fame — in her first Broadway directorial gig since 2011’s Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.
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“I could not be more excited to take on such a complex and fascinating role for my return to Broadway,” Owen, who made his Broadway debut in 2015’s Old Times, said in a statement. “M. Butterfly offers a novel challenge with its inherent mystery and astonishing storyline. I’m looking forward to diving into the mind of Rene Gallimard.”
For the revival, Hwang is also incorporating new material about the real-life relationship from which M. Butterfly finds its inspiration — that between French diplomat Bernard Boursicot and Chinese opera singer Shi Pei Pu. The suggestion came from Taymor herself.
“Julie’s suggestion to look at the wealth of new information about the real affair…that has surfaced since the show’s premiere helped to unlock new possibilities within the play,” Hwang explained in the release. “I’m thrilled with this opportunity to revisit these characters — their motivations and their personal and political deceptions – to more fully explore this extraordinary love affair.”