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Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart head to Broadway in the fall for some Pinter and Beckett

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - Serious theatre fans have a reason to suddenly freak out: Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart will team up on Broadway this fall in two of the most iconic plays of the 20th century.

Producers announced Thursday that Stewart and McKellen will star in Harold Pinter's "No Man's Land" and Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" which will play in repertoire under the direction of Sean Mathias.

The Broadway theatre, performance dates, the two supporting actors and the schedule of performances will be announced later.

Stewart and McKellen starred in a production of "Waiting for Godot" in London's West End in 2009. Prior to Broadway, they'll tackle "No Man's Land" in an as-yet-unspecified out-of-town tryout this summer.

Mathias told The Associated Press all three men struggled to make "Waiting for Godot" as honest and realistic as possible — an approach they'll likely replicate with Pinter's play.

"What we tried to do, with so much effort, was make it real. Make them human beings, compassionate, funny, flawed and vulnerable and cocky — all the things human beings are," Mathias said. "We never wanted to make it esoteric. I'm sure this is how we will approach the Pinter as well."

Stewart, 72, and McKellen, 73, first worked together in 1977 in Tom Stoppard's "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour." They've also starred in the "X-Men" movie franchise as Professor Xavier and Magneto.

Stewart will play Vladimir in "Waiting for Godot" and Hirst in "No Man's Land;" McKellen will play Estragon in "Waiting for Godot" and Spooner in "No Man's Land."

"My main feeling is it's lovely to be back with friends and it will be lovely to be back in New York," said McKellen, who is doing a sit-com in England and next goes to Middle Earth to film scenes for "The Hobbit" franchise. "But I've got an awful lot to do in the meantime."

McKellen made his Broadway debut in Aleksei Arbuzov's "The Promise" in 1967 and won a Tony Award for his performance in "Amadeus" in 1981. His films include "Apt Pupil," ''Gods and Monsters" and "The Lord of the Rings."

Stewart, perhaps best known as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," first appeared on Broadway in Peter Brook's production of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in 1971 and has recently been in David Mamet's "A Life in the Theatre" and "Macbeth."

Putting the Beckett and Pinter plays together in repertoire makes theatrical sense since both require four male actors and they both mine a surreal, witty vein.

"Both plays play tricks with our memory, with time, with what time is," said Mathias. "Both plays are dealing with a landscape of poetry, a landscape of psychology, a landscape that is both real and isn't real. So there are incredible reverberations and resonances."

Stewart and McKellen will sink their teeth into Beckett and Pinter after spending the summer filming "X-Men: Days of Future Past." Mathias, a Tony nominee in 1995 for "Indiscretions," will be directing "Breakfast at Tiffany's" on Broadway this spring.

Now a thorny question: Who gets top billing on Broadway — McKellen or Stewart? After all, both actors have gotten knighthoods for their services to drama and the performing arts.

"For me there's no question," Stewart said. "Ian was a star actor while I was still working in regional theatre. To be absolutely frank, I was in awe of him and his work long before I knew him."

___

Follow Mark Kennedy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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