The film star Rachel McAdams will make her Broadway debut next spring in an acclaimed and heart-wrenching play about a mother caring for a small child with a serious illness.
McAdams will star in “Mary Jane,” a drama by Amy Herzog that debuted at Yale Repertory Theater in 2017 and was followed by an Off Broadway run at New York Theater Workshop that same year. In The New York Times, the critic Jesse Green called the play “a heartbreaker for anyone human” and “the most profound and harrowing of Ms. Herzog’s many fine plays.”
McAdams, who became famous playing Regina George in the 2004 movie “Mean Girls,” performed regularly onstage while growing up in Canada and studied theater at York University in Ontario. But she has not performed onstage professionally since she was a student. In a telephone interview, she said her initial career aspirations were to perform as a theater actor.
“I had dreams of going to the Stratford Festival in Canada, and hadn’t really entertained Broadway — that was so far off, and even now I’m pinching myself,” she said. “I’ve been looking for a play forever, but kind of casually — not fully committed to it — and this came along, I read it, and I just was so taken with it.”
She said she found the play “beautifully written” and “couldn’t stop thinking about it. It was already inside of me.”
“It’s shedding light on the difficulties, but also the resiliency, of families with children with special needs,” she added. “There’s actually a lot of comedy to the piece as well — she’s drawn an amazingly positive, resilient character in Mary Jane, and really well-drawn, supporting characters around her.”
McAdams was nominated for an Academy Award for the 2015 film “Spotlight.” She also starred in the 2004 film adaptation of “The Notebook”; a musical adaptation of that same story is scheduled to open on Broadway in March.
McAdams said her decision to come to Broadway was not related to the dual strikes by screenwriters and actors that have largely idled Hollywood. She said she had committed to “Mary Jane” before the strikes began. And though apprehensive about returning to the stage, McAdams is also looking forward to it.
“There’s no editor — you’re really so naked and vulnerable,” she said. “I hope my training will support me, but it was such a long time ago.”
“I think it might be like riding a bike,” she added. However, she said, “there’s a little bit of the unknown about it. And I think also just having emotional stamina — you really don’t know until you’re there if you’re going to be able to fill your vessel up enough to keep you going. So it’s just all those ‘I won’t know until I get there’ things, but I’m excited to do the work.”
The Off Broadway production won three Obie Awards, for Herzog’s playwriting, for direction by Anne Kauffman, and for a lead performance by Carrie Coon. There have since been several productions at regional theaters; one is now running in Santa Rosa, Calif.
The nonprofit Manhattan Theater Club will present the Broadway production, also directed by Kauffman, at its Samuel J. Friedman Theater. Previews are scheduled to begin on April 2; an opening date and the names of the other cast members have not yet been announced.
Herzog, whose play “4000 Miles” was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2013, has recently turned her attention to revising classic works: She adapted Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” for a Broadway production starring Jessica Chastain and Arian Moayed that ran earlier this year, and she is adapting Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People” for a Broadway production planning to open next spring with Jeremy Strong in the title role.