"Where would Jesus stay?"
That's just one of many questions posed during Craig Wright's Grace, a dark comedy that also asks, "Are we in control of our lives?"
"Grace deals with very big questions," says star Paul Rudd, who returns to Broadway for the first time in six years. "And any time you can spend with the big questions is time well spent."
"Oh!" the 43-year-old actor adds. "People will read that and think I'm like Frank Langella, and not some imbecile who makes fart jokes."
Audiences expecting the latter will have to wait for Rudd's upcoming film "This Is 40," his eighth for movie comedy king Judd Apatow ("The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "Knocked Up"). In Grace, Rudd plays an evangelical Christian trying to fund a chain of gospel hotel resorts (hence the question "Where would Jesus stay?").
Wright knows this world firsthand, having been a Methodist seminarian before bringing his offbeat sensibility to TV and stage. He worked on the acclaimed HBO series "Six Feet Under" and created the cult hit "Dirty Sexy Money" while having plays produced at Playwrights Horizons and Steppenwolf.
According to Grace director Dexter Bullard, Rudd possesses the right alchemy for Wright's textured writing. "He radiates trust, intelligence and humor - yet beneath lies complexity, vulnerability and even a tinge of violence," says Bullard.
Or, as Rudd puts it: "Doing plays allows me to flex different muscles." Cast onscreen primarily as an affable goofball, Rudd's stage work reflects a fierce dramatic intensity. As a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles, the young Rudd surprised his agents by taking time away from far more lucrative television work to study Jacobean drama at the British American Drama Academy at Oxford.
Rudd followed his break-out movie performance in "Clueless" with his first Broadway play, Alfred Uhry's The Last Night of Ballyhoo, as well as Twelfth Night for Lincoln Center Theater. And he bracketed the delightfully silly film comedy "Wet Hot American Summer" by playing Jamie Tyrone in a London production of Long Day's Journey Into Night (with Jessica Lange) and premiering Neil LaBute's unsettling The Shape of Things.
"Theatre is the best way for an actor to improve," Rudd says, because of "the sheer repetition" and endurance necessary to withstand that repetition. "But the schedule is a bummer. The one day off is not cool."
Still, he says, "the life of doing a play is special and I treasure it. I miss the community as much as anything else — going to dinner after the show and seeing other people doing shows."
|1 | 2 Next|