Jekyll's Fiancee Lets Loose; Leenane's Suitor Falls in Love

Jekyll's Fiancee Lets Loose; Leenane's Suitor Falls in Love A THEATREGOER'S NOTEBOOK -- May 1998
Left to right: Jekyll's fiancee, Christiane Noll, Leenane's suitor, Brian F. O'Byrne (with Anna Manahan)
Left to right: Jekyll's fiancee, Christiane Noll, Leenane's suitor, Brian F. O'Byrne (with Anna Manahan) (Photo by Photos by Cylla Von Tiedemann and Carol Rosegg respectively)

A THEATREGOER'S NOTEBOOK -- May 1998

THE DOCTOR'S INTENDED

Maintaining an air of attractive civility and innocence amid Jekyll & Hyde's musical mayhem is almost exclusively the job of Christiane Noll, who plays the good doctor's fiancee with an edge that keeps the goo at bay and gives the character a spine. "It's not within me to be a vapid, stereotypical ingenue," Noll admits. Her favorite moment is "In His Eyes," a duet with Linda Eder, the doxy enamored with the Hyde half of Robert Cuccioli. "My character is rather restrained through most of the show, so I like this moment because I can let loose.

Recently, after a Saturday matinee, she let a little offstage sweetness show through when she visited with Doris Butz, a schoolteacher up from North Carolina who once cast her as "Mother Squirrel" in a second-grade extravaganza. Notably, it was not Noll's stage bow. "My parents were in the business, so I toured with them. The first thing I ever did was The Mikado at age four." Her father, Ronald Noll, is the long-time conductor of the Village Light Opera Group, and her mother is an opera singer. "When people say I have a beautiful soprano, I tell them, 'I'm not a soprano. Mom is the soprano in the family. I just scream high.'"

She just finished "screaming high" some glorious Rodgers & Hammerstein, providing the singing voice for Anna in an animated version of The King and I, due next year. "It's probably my most fulfilling professional experience. You have to close your eyes and focus and see everything by how you're painting your voice."


THE QUEEN'S SWAIN

The beauty queen of Leenane has a gentleman caller who dubs her that in a burst of blarney, sweeps her off to bed and (the morning after) suggests they elope. As played with easy Irish charm by Brian F. O'Byrne, Pato Dooley contrasts sunnily with the violent emotions at the core of the drama. Dooley, now hanging his head down at the Walter Kerr in Martin McDonagh's Beauty Queen of Leenane, is one of three Leenane denizens O'Byrne has been inhabiting for two years in The Leenane Trilogy. There are passing references in Beauty Queen to his other two -- a dim-witted policeman in A Skull in Connemara and a donnybrook-prone cheapskate in The Lonesome West -- but when the three are taken together (as they were in Dublin, Sydney and London), they demonstrate why he won the Irish Times Award for Best Actor. "If these plays have a common theme," he ventures, "it's that people who lived in isolated areas
without a chance of expressing love lead to violent situations."

O'Byrne, 30, wouldn't know about that personally, now that he's engaged to Amy Ryan. They met on Broadway, playing lovers in The Sisters Rosensweig and
will wed in Ireland next summer.

As to which of the trilogy parts is the most fun to act, "It's nice to stand onstage every night and fall in love with someone" -- a mischievous aftergthought occurs to him -- "and it's nice to beat the [bleep] out of someone, too."

-- By Harry Haun