"I generally only do Pulitzer Prize plays," announced Jeremy Shamos airily in mock archness. Of late, he has had quite a run of them, and, if the literary scuttlebutt comes true and Richard Greenberg does win his overdue Pulitzer for The Assembled Parties, that'll make an unprecedented, unbroken run of four Pulitzer Prize opuses-in-a-row for Shamos.
"And then," said the actor, pretending to get giddy on all that reflected glory, "I would actually be able to keep up my streak of only doing Pulitzer Prize plays, and every playwright would want me for their plays so they could win one for themselves."
Pam MacKinnon, who steered him to Pulitzer project one in Clybourne Park, Bruce Norris' 2012 play about block-busting in the Chicago suburbs, also directs Shamos in his latest, Dinner with Friends, Donald Margulies's 2000 play about two couples coming apart as friends, which opened at Roundabout's Laura Pels Theatre February 13. It's a smart, almost logical career move for McKennon after her Tony for refereeing the fractious foursome in Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? — which won the 1963 Pulitzer, but got overruled by the award's advisory board for its dirty words.
"Even though it's a play about marriage, I feel it's more about friendship and what friendships are based on," contended Shamos. "Sometimes, they're based on trying to have the same experience — only people don't have the same experience, so they grow apart.
"I like all the characters here, actually — and I think that's the strength of this play. My guy has a moral center I like. He's not preachy — just very honest about friendship and loyalty."
As half of the couple that stays afloat, Shamos rates his "a good marriage — probably not a great marriage, but a good marriage — and maybe after the play it will get better. Ours is a relatively healthy marriage, the sort people will recognize. We tend not to talk too deeply about things, for fear of upsetting the apple cart. The play brings that up because the other couple has completely upset their apple cart, and it's a question of whether we're going to go in that direction or whether we're just going to stay comfortable with each other."
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