PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Casa Valentina — Harvey's Girls

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24 Apr 2014

John Cullum
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

"It's a role, as far as I'm concerned — because these people are role-playing," Cullum shrugged. "I feel like I've trained 50 years to do this kind of play. I hate to say it's just another role because it's a different kind of role. I don't usually wear skirts and wigs.

"I wanted to play it because of the language — it was wonderfully written — and because of the conflicts that were involved, not just because we were transvestites but because — well, imagine the conflicts that go on in Congress between different people. You don't know their backgrounds, but they're congressmen, and they're supposed to act one way. There's a certain solidarity. That's the same thing that unites us as a community in the Catskills where we come, but there is also human elements that make for conflict. So it has plot, action and drama. It evokes pity and anguish or empathy, just like any other drama.

"I play an older character who has been a transvestite since he was young, but it was secret, and he didn't really find out that there were other people like him until he was 18 or 19 years old. The only people he could open up to were homosexuals, and, of course, he's not a homosexual. He's a heterosexual but a cross-dresser, and he's not a performer in the sense of drag queens and that sort of thing. None of the people in the play are like that. Most of them have families, and they're all straight."

Larry Pine, a mighty oak you wouldn't expect to find in black lace, admitted he didn't knock himself out in the transformation department. "I don't do eyes and all the other stuff. I didn't really go into all that, and that's a choice because my character hides. If he's going to dress up, it's just lipstick and a wig." Period, apparently.

Lisa Emery, who plays Pine's daughter, pays a late, mood-altering visit to the resort and punctures everybody's balloon, then departs. "I represent a different point of view," she explained. "That's really my job in the play, and I get it. I get how really crushing that could be to a young girl growing up. Hearing those things about her father, maybe hearing her parents fighting, him never being there on the weekend.

"It took me a long time to not be afraid to be so unfriendly, but the hard part comes in waiting two hours before you go on. That's hard. The stuff that I do has to be really limited. It's not like I can sit and watch episodes of Louis CK. I have to stay focused, but I can't not do anything, so I read and do the crossword puzzle. What I do is I sit down for about 30 seconds and get very angry, then throw it away and go on stage."


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