Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart -- better known as Magneto and Prof. Charles Xavier, respectively, to "X-Men" fans -- are currently taking a breather from the superhero franchise and starring together in Broadway repertory productions of Harold Pinter's "No Man's Land" and Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot."
The revolving productions, which officially opened Sunday at the Cort Theatre in New York, were performed at Berkeley Repertory Theatre earlier this year en route to Broadway. Though the "X-Men" actors are getting all of the publicity, the casts include supporting turns by Billy Crudup and Broadway veteran Shuler Hensley.
Directed by Sean Mathias, the two productions have a strange Broadway schedule. "No Man's Land" plays Wednesday evenings through Saturday matinees, while "Waiting for Godot" runs from Saturday evenings through Wednesday matinees.
Both productions are scheduled to run through March 2. The latest "X-Men" movie, titled "X-Men: Days of Future Past," will be released May 23. McKellen can be seen before then in the "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," opening Dec. 13.
What did the critics think of the Pinter/Beckett production?
Ben Brantley of the New York Times described the two plays as "absurdly enjoyable revivals." The productions "bring out the beguiling polish and shimmer in Pinter and Beckett’s language" and are "an irresistible celebration of two actors' love affairs with their scripts."
The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney called the productions "masterfully acted," with the two leads bringing "gravitas, penetrating intelligence and mercurial wit." McKellen in particular shines -- "his effortless physicality... makes every minute he’s onstage mesmerizing."
Linda Winer of Newsday wrote that "both actors, neither one immune to the lure of excess showmanship, are terrific -- stylish, disciplined, strikingly different."
Entertainment Weekly's Thom Geier noted that in both plays, "McKellen and Stewart deliver a master class in acting that seems to echo Beckett and Pinter's underlying theme: the struggle of men against the challenge and inevitability of death."