- Associated Press - Thursday, January 24, 2013

NEW YORK (AP) — Serious theater fans have a reason to suddenly freak out: Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart will team up on Broadway this fall in two of the most iconic plays of the 20th century.

Producers announced Thursday that Mr. Stewart and Mr. McKellen will star in Harold Pinter’s “No Man’s Land” and Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” in repertory under the direction of Sean Mathias.

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

Mr. Stewart and Mr. 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.

Mr. 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,” Mr. Mathias said. “We never wanted to make it esoteric. I’m sure this is how we will approach the Pinter as well.”

Mr. Stewart, 72, and Mr. 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.

Mr. 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.”

Mr. 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 makes sense since both require four male actors and they both mine a surreal vein.

“Both plays play tricks with our memory, with time, with what time is,” Mr. Mathias said. “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.”

Mr. Stewart and Mr. McKellen will sink their teeth into Beckett and Pinter after spending the summer filming “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” Mr. Mathias will be directing “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” on Broadway this spring.

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

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