Larry Bryggman and Mary-Louise Parker have family issues. The first time they played father and daughter on stage, in Craig Lucas' 1990 play Prelude to a Kiss, Parker was possessed by the soul of an old man, thus putting a slight strain on their relationship. Parent and offspring seem a bit closer in David Auburn's current Proof, their conversations more frequent and more affectionate. This, despite the fact that Bryggman's character is dead. Perhaps if the two performers put in another decade in the theatre, they'll end up in a play where they are both physically and metaphysically on stage at the same time. Bryggman has been a steady presence on the New York stage for some years now—despite the demands of day job playing Dr. John Dixon (since 1969) on "As the World Turns"—and Proof may be his surest triumph yet. The actor took time between a recent Wednesday matinee and evening show at the Walter Kerr to talk to Playbill On-Line.
Playbill On-Line: You worked with Mary Louise Parker back in Prelude to a Kiss. Is this the first time you've been teamed with her since then?
Larry Bryggman: Yes. We only do father-daughter plays. [Laughs.]
PBOL: Has the way you act together changed much in the intervening years?
LB: Well, we have much more to do together in this play. I always thought she was wonderful before. She's twice as good now. All my scenes are with her. We have a sort of—I don't want to say chemistry, but I guess you could say that. It works very well. It's kind of mysterious and we don't fool with it.
PBOL: Was it there from the beginning, that chemistry?
LB: Oh, yeah. They started auditioning people and they called me in. I met David Auburn; he didn't know me. So he said let's read and we did. It was just there, it was good.
PBOL: Your character is sometimes seen as a ghost—a figment of Parker's imagination—and other times as a living person seen in flashback. Did it ever occur to you to play the part differently in those two sorts of scenes?
LB: Oh, you're putting me on the spot here. See, I think I do. I think he's a lot more goofy in the first scene than he is in the second scene. I think that there's a great deal of difference between those two guys. The other funny thing about the first scene is it's all her hallucination. When you get right down to it, it's stuff she's putting in there. PBOL: This play has certainly become a big success. Does it feel like a special experience to you?
LB: It is. It's always nice when we can come into this area and play. You feel like you're part of the business. I love Broadway. Some of the best theatre I've ever seen has been on Broadway. It's always very good to work here; it's important to work here, and I've done it a number of times. Oddly enough, it's the second time I've worked with Mary-Louise and both plays have come to Broadway. I said to here, "You must have the luck," and she said, "I thought you did."
PBOL: You're currently working on "As the World Turns" during the day and doing the play at night. Is that tiring?
LB: Yes, it is. But I've never found any other way to do it, other than to quit. And if there was the money here [in the theatre] that there is there, that would be no problem.
PBOL: You work pretty steadily on stage. One would have to guess you really enjoy the theatre to make yourself work day and night.
LB: Yes, I do. That's what I came here to do, and that what I want to do. [The soap opera] is a great part-time job. It was always the idea to support one thing with the other, and it's done that. And [the television executives] have been very good to me. I really can't complain about their ever saying "no." And I've done some crazy things. I've even toured while I was doing the series. The only thing I have arguments with them about is the writing—but that's soap opera.
PBOL: Do fans of your television work come to see your stage performances?
LB: Oh, yeah. They all drop me a note. Or, they'll write to the theatre to say they saw the show.
PBOL: Are there any stage roles you've longed to play that haven't come your way?
LB: I would have liked to have tried Hamlet at one time, but the time I was the right age to do it, I didn't want to do it. [Laughs.] I'd love to do Lear, Macbeth, a lot of those guys. I'm still looking to do Lear. I haven't given up on that yet. I've had a couple offers to do it, but I just haven't been able. I'd like to find out what it's all about.
—By Robert Simonson