By Matt Windman
10 Oct 2006
|Photo by Michal Daniel|
Ten years following his Broadway appearance in Ron Harwoodís Taking Sides, he has come to the Public Theater with Wrecks, a Neil LaBute monologue which had its world premiere last year at the Everyman Palace Theatre in Cork, Ireland. Harris took some time to take about the play with Playbill.com.
PLAYBILL.COM: How did you get involved with the play?
EH: Neil sent me the play last summer. He had been commissioned to write it for the Everyman Palace Theatre. He said its two weeks in Ireland, would you be interested in doing it. I hadnít done a play in ten years, but I really liked the piece and it was only two weeks, as opposed to six months.
PLAYBILL.COM: What attracted you to the piece?
EH: Well, I really enjoyed reading it. It had great rhythm and I liked this character. I was very surprised at how it ended up. I didnít really seeing what was coming. It was a challenging. I liked the idea that it was a one-man thing. It was just me and the audience and I thought itíd be something fun to do. The guy is trying to get somewhere. Sometimes he gets sidetracked, but then he gets back to ground zero and talks about his feelings. Itís fairly seamless in the writing and how it moves.
PLAYBILL.COM: Is it fair to say that the audience becomes the playís second character?
EH: Well, itís fascinating because every night itís a whole different deal. And in this play thereís a whole lot of humor. So, some nights there is laughter and on others there isnít. So, you canít count on that. Whatís really wonderful is when the audience is a homogenous group and you can feel their energy as something relating to you as a unit. Itís more difficult when there are disparate pockets of people. And itís strange because its three-quarter seating and the audience can see each other and they donít have the anonymity that theyíd have in a proscenium space.
PLAYBILL.COM: A typical lesson in a beginning acting class is that you shouldnít judge your character. Is that particularly relevant in the case if this play?
EH: I never judged the guy. I mean, I like the guy. I guess if thatís a judgment, itís a positive judgment. Whatever character I play, on film or stage, you have to embrace the character. You may not intellectually agree with him, but you have to embrace where heís coming from to do it. You canít afford to have any severe judgment about the character in the playing of it, certainly.
PLAYBILL.COM: How familiar were you with LaButeís work?
EH: Iíve read more of Neilís plays since. I wasnít really familiar with his work. I knew In the Company of Men and had read some of the reviews of his plays. This is a love story, which is a departure for Neil. Itís not cruel. Itís not mean. Itís not misogynistic. Thatís part of what attracted me to it. The relationship that these two people have is beautiful.
PLAYBILL.COM: What was the rehearsal process like?
EH: We were in a little room in L.A. and it was really just going through it and trying to understand the different beats of it and block it. You canít be too static. Just investigating different things and talking about it over and over again. Then doing my homework at night, trying to make it specific all the time.
PLAYBILL.COM: What made you want to do the show in New York following the Ireland engagement?
EH: I like New York. Iíve always enjoyed working in New York. I think this is the first play Iíve done in 12 years. I like the energy in New York. I grew up in the east. I live in California. It's nice to come back. As much as I would support theatre in Los Angeles, geographically itís so spread out. Itís just not as exciting to do theatre in Los Angeles as it is in New York.
PLAYBILL.COM: Has the experience made you want to do more shows here?
EH: Of course. Iíve tried. Iíve gotten very close since I did Taking Sides in Ď96. Weíd been talking about Night of the Iguana for a while, and there were some Arthur Miller things. And to tell the truth, my daughter is 13 and I didnít want to disappear for six months.
PLAYBILL.COM: What happened with the revival of Fool for Love that you had been set to direct for Roundabout?
EH: We were going to do that. And I had auditioned a lot of people. I thought I had a May in Lili Taylor, but I didn't find an Eddie that I could match her up with. Then I had to go off and do some other work. Then I got a call from Todd Haimes and he said there was a company in England that wanted to do a production in London and they wanted the New York rights. It was a great idea, but I said talk to Samís people, and if they want that, then just kiss it goodbye.
PLAYBILL.COM: Might you consider acting or directing in London?
EH: Iíd consider it. We shot "The Hours" there, but I havenít been onstage there. I think they want to take Wrecks there.
PLAYBILL.COM: Have you received any intriguing comments from friends on your portrayal?
EH: My friend Holly Hunter came with her husband. The way she said it was pretty unique in how grounded and present the guy was. She was taken by how he seemed like a real guy just talking about his life.
PLAYBILL.COM: Why do you suppose so many screen actors have been doing Neil LaBute plays lately?
EH: Iím the wrong person to ask. Probably because itís got power and that itís fun to act. Heís got a great way with dialogue. He writes people who are dealing with something. Some visceral thing.