Jefferson Mays Brings Multiple Personalities to Broadway in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

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27 Oct 2013

Mays as Asquith "Assie" D'Ysquith Jr.
Photo by Henry DiRocco

Mays merrily goes to hell eight times a week in one hilarious exit after another. Twice he flames out as a female — as a feminist do-gooder and a terrible actress. The authentic leading ladies are on the arms of the anti-hero, Pinkham: Lisa O'Hare, an, English actress, is his mistress, while Lauren Worsham, a soprano from New York City Opera (The Turn of the Screw, Candide), plays his cousin and fiancée.

"Lauren plays Phoebe D'Ysquith with a voice like no other — it's a special effect in and of itself," praised Mays, "and Lisa has the Joan Greenwood role, Sibella. It really is a wonderful cast. Bryce has the star part, I suppose, which sorta makes me the serial supporting character — the serial victim.

"My true scene-partner is my dresser. When the producers asked, 'Who do you want dressing you?' I said, 'Oh, please give me Jeeves — someone who shimmers on and just performs magic and shimmers off again, so I don't have to work or think.'"

Darko Tresnjak, artistic director of Hartford Stage who is making his Broadway debut helming this production, is another who keeps Mays on the right character course. "He's an old friend of mine," said the actor. "We worked together at Williamstown and Long Wharf, and he's a joy to work with. We don't talk to each other a lot in rehearsal. We have an odd, sort of telepathic shorthand, which is very much in synch. It's the way I like to work the best. I don't like those rehearsals where everybody is talking things to death and overanalyzing everything."

Consequently, characters keep coming at him like comets all evening long. Eight is enough here, but that is by no means the max for Mays. This is the man, it will be remembered, who won his Tony playing Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a 65-year-old East German gay transvestite who survived the Nazis and the Communists, living openly as a cross-dresser — plus three dozen other characters — in I Am My Own Wife.

In contrast, he happily and heavily sighs, the D'Ysquiths are "just a walk in the park."

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