PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Eric Bogosian

Brief Encounter   PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Eric Bogosian
 
Eric Bogosian has been part of the theatrical landscape in New York for so long, it's slightly stunning to discover that Time Stands Still marks his Broadway debut as an actor.
Eric Bogosian
Eric Bogosian Photo by Joan Marcus

But it does. Donald Margulies' new play about war correspondents adjusting to a more sedentary existence, now at Manhattan Theatre Club's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, is the frequent monologuist-actor's first Broadway credit. It follows by three years his bow as a Broadway dramatist, when his Talk Radio was revived to much acclaim, and the 2009 publication of his most recent novel, "Perforated Heart." The actor talked to Playbill.com about performing once again in a "regular play," and what he might rant about if he ever did do another of his high-octane solo shows.

Playbill.com: Last time we talked, you were having your Broadway debut as a playwright with Talk Radio. Now you're enjoying your Broadway acting debut in Time Stands Still. Your Broadway arrivals are coming pretty late in your career, aren't they?
Eric Bogosian: Yes. Better late than never. Yeah, in fact I haven't done a lot of plays in New York other that the stuff I've written for myself, solo shows which I did many times in New York. But my play experience I had was primarily before I came to New York, as a student: fourth-wall missing, walking in and out of doors, carrying a drink in my hand and all that stuff.

Playbill.com: How did this role come about?
EB: They needed to have the play heard — read out loud. And I know guys over at the Manhattan Theatre Club, and I know Donald Margulies and [director] Dan Sullivan. I often do favors like that. After I read it with this cast, they asked "Do you want to do it?" And I could do it — I had finished up my 60 episodes of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" — so I said, "Yeah." That Laura Linney was doing it and Donald was writing it and Dan was directing it, those all said to me this was a great opportunity. I'm always looking for ways to raise the bar. I just like things being done well. I'm a theatre guy. And Donald has often written characters who are in sync with what I want to do on stage.

Playbill.com: So you're leaving "Law & Order"?
EB: I am returned long enough to be departing, as are a couple other actors. That'll be in March, in a special, blockbuster episode.

Alicia Silverstone and Eric Bogosian in Time Stands Still
photo by Joan Marcus

Playbill.com: I wondered if the story of Time Stands Still had any personal resonance for you. The characters are war journalists who are used to being in the thick of things and have now settled down to a quieter existence. Do you see a parallel to the days when you were acting on downtown stages as compared to the times when you retreat to write one of your novels?
EG: Well, the fact that I can write novels today is because I have a more regular life. I do think Donald is putting his finger on a couple of things that go well beyond war journalism. The first being that when you have a really stressful job that takes a huge amount of time, it's really hard to integrate a relationship. That's very much at the center of the play. The other thing is that anybody who works as a professional in New York knows that 50 percent of their relationships are totally intertwined with work. Our friends are also people we work with. It's hard to separate that. That's fascinating, because that goes on with a lot of us. At the end of the day, how do you know what a "friend-friend" is in New York?

Playbill.com: With your most recent novel, "Perforated Heart," a lot of reviews made comparison to the work of Philip Roth. How did you feel about that?
EB: Good. If you know anything about Philip Roth, it's obvious [in that book] that I'm playing off of a Philip Roth character. I'm fascinated with Philip Roth.

Playbill.com: Have you ever met him?
EB: I've never met him. I was making a list the other night of people I have met, and I realized that was a very prominent missing person on my list. It's fascinating to me that the artists I'm most attracted to are so completely different from me. From what I understand, he's a very dour guy, and I'm just not like that at all.

Playbill.com: Who was the most surprising person on that list?
EB: The most surprising person on my list is unquestionably Barbara Bush. It was brief, but I did meet Barbara Bush.

Playbill.com: Do you remember what you said?
EB: I don't know what I said, but I remember what she said. She said, "My, what curly hair you have." (Laughs) I met Michael Jordan once and didn't know who he was. I've met porn stars. I did a record album with Frank Zappa. I ended up in a lot of funny places.

Playbill.com: If you did a new solo show today, what topics would you take up, what things that are happening in the society would you talk about?
EB: The thing I would do today would be to make a piece about the obvious truth that we don't want to acknowledge. To some degree, Wake Up and Smell the Coffee was saying that also. But, c'mon. Who's kidding who? We all know now the horrible truths, that the poor will always be poor, that sort of devil's advocate stuff. What just happened two days ago with the Supreme Court ruling [the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections] was so shocking. John McCain came out and said, "That's it. There were be no more election reform. They killed it and that's the end of democracy." They were all saying blunt things. People were actually being honest. If someone has unlimited money to crush you, they can. I'm really curious when they decided a corporation was a human being. I don't get that. The idea that there's nothing we can do. It's a horrible notion.

Laura Linney, Brian d’Arcy James and Eric Bogosian
Laura Linney, Brian d’Arcy James and Eric Bogosian
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