Today, we had our first run-through of Philadelphia, Here I Come! directed by the amazing Frank Galati, at Asolo Rep. This production is wonderful; funny, truthful, and utterly heartbreaking. Frank works so quietly, so unassumingly, and so openly. And the result is such an organic, richly-textured depiction of a rural Irish community that at three separate times I was holding back tears watching the work of my fellow actors. This production has all the humor you could want, but also the deep ache of reality and recognition. The communication–or lack of it–between all the characters is painted so believably that it hurts. Brian Friel is an extraordinary playwright, and Frank is bringing Friel’s world to life so vividly that it’s taking my breath away. I only appear in one brief, comic scene toward the end of the play, but even more than on the page, in doing our first run-through today, I felt how much that humor is needed by the audience before Friel delivers the final family scenes, which are quietly devastating. I think the audience is going to be blown away by this production. And this after a first run-through?? Amazing.
And then tonight, we had our first read-through of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike directed by the fabulous Peter Amster. I am so happy to be working with Peter again; doing The 39 Steps remains one of my best theatrical experiences because of his expert guidance and collaborative generosity, not to mention his wicked wit. After hearing this brilliant play aloud with this cast, all I can say is that my fellow actors are sublimely well suited to their roles, and I am thrilled to be in their company. This is a tricky play: quirky, zany, dark, sad, sweet–you never know what the next moment is going to be. But underneath it all beats a surprisingly beautiful and passionate heart.
I watched a Dramatists Guild video of an interview with playwright Chris Durang, and when asked what makes his voice unique, he said he is drawn most strongly to comedy that comes from pain. It’s going to be an interesting challenging finding that delicate balance of comedy and real pain, something that resonates especially richly with my character, Vanya. It’s going to be quite a journey! I’m so grateful to be on it with these wonderful people.