March 3, 2015
Nick Offerman to play Ignatius J. Reilly on stage
by Nick Davies
John Kennedy Toole’s ode to New Orleans and some of its grosser inhabitants, A Confederacy of Dunces, is heading to the stage this fall, and the show has just announced a fairly brilliant piece of casting news. Andrew R. Chow writes for the New York Times that Nick Offerman, best known for playing libertarian grump Ron Swanson on NBC’s late lamented Parks and Recreation, will play the lead role.
The novel A Confederacy of Dunces, which earned Toole a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, centers on Ignatius J. Reilly, a portly malcontent who places an undue amount of importance on the working of his pyloric valve. He’s an evocative, memorable character, one that seems to demand dramatic interpretation.
Chow points to an article from 2013 on Splitsider that highlights ten other actors who had been tapped at one point or another to play Reilly in movie adaptations that never came to be. Big names like John Belushi, Will Ferrell, John Goodman, and Divine have all been considered to take on the role—the latter for a film that John Waters was considering making, before he ultimately concluded, “How can a movie ever live up to that book?… I don’t know if it’ll ever happen. Maybe it shouldn’t.”
Now, playwright Jeffrey Hatcher is taking on the task of adapting Toole’s novel into a play. The production will debut at Boston’s Huntington Theater Company this November, with performances scheduled for November 11-December 13. Offerman—author of Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living—is a great choice for the lead role based on his mustache alone. His natural talent for portraying surliness and almost cartoonish grouchiness is just icing on the cake.
For his part, Offerman seems delighted to be playing Reilly. He says in a statement to the press, “I am simply tumescent at the prospect of assaying the beloved character of Ignatius J. Reilly with our team of magnificent and weird artistic champions. It seems only fitting that I should follow seven seasons of Ron Swanson’s beef with the pudding of Toole’s corpulent fop.”
Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.