As Sidney and Iris Brustein, Golden Globe winners Oscar Isaac (Hamlet, Moon Knight, Scenes from a Marriage) and Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Big Knife, Othello) trade barbs and play games in Lorraine Hansberry's The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window. The playwright's portrait of their marriage and the complex tensions between their unrealistic ideals and the reality of 1960s Greenwich Village is currently being revived at Brooklyn Academy of Music's Harvey Theater. Previews began February 4 ahead of its February 23 opening night.
Starring alongside the pair as family members and progressive friends are Gus Birney, Julian De Niro, Glenn Fitzgerald, Andy Grotelueschen, Miriam Silverman, and Raphael Nash Thompson. Joey Auzenne, Gregory Connor, Brontë England-Nelson, and Amelia Pedlow are understudies.
Obie and Lortel winner Anne Kauffman (The Thugs, Mary Jane) directs the seldom-seen work which also explores the complexities of predominantly white bohemian intellectuals and activism. Kauffman previously directed the play at Chicago's Goodman Theatre in 2016. As Brosnahan says, the work still "feels modern" nearly 60 years after it was written because “those same conversations feel like [the ones] we’re having today.” Isaac adds, “It’s speaking to people that feel a bit disenfranchised by the whole political game.” He also calls the play Hansberry’s “call to care.” As he astutely points out, there’s an exhaustion in those who are politically and socially active over the long haul, a trial which his character Sidney faces. For the actor, the play is asking, “How do you continue to care, to stay engaged—even when you don’t know the right answer, even when you don’t know what to do?” Read more about how Brosnahan and Isaac are taking on the work and its questions here.
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 is its first major New York revival.
“We are in dire need of Hansberry’s voice...we know so little of her, and define her by one play: A Raisin in the Sun. Without a doubt, Raisin is a masterpiece, but Hansberry’s evolution and contribution to this country's culture, history and political motion stretches way beyond that astonishing accomplishment," said Kauffman in an earlier statement. "Her work as an artist and activist is varied and deep. The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window, written four years after A Raisin in the Sun, embraces human complexity and frailty while aggressively shaking us free of our delusions, yet very few people know of it. Now they’ll know.”
Bringing The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window to life as part of the creative team are dramaturg Arminda Thomas, scenic designer dots, costume designer Brenda Abbandandolo, lighting designer John Torres, sound designer Bray Poor, wig designer Leah Loukas, props master Andrew Diaz, vocal coach Kate Wilson, and casting director Taylor Williams.
BAM has also created in-person and online experiences about Hansberry, including talks, an exhibit in the Harvey Theater lobby curated by BAM archivist Sharon Lehner, and online educational tools.