PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: The Big Knife—Odets, Poor Debts

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17 Apr 2013

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For comedian Kind, Marcus Hoff is an extreme change of pace that proves he has acting chops above and beyond the ability to get a laugh. It is bombastic work, with size, depth and breadth. "As Doug directed me," he said, "the character really operates on many different levels. I come in Papa, nice, sweetheart—and I'm a snake. I'm a horrible, horrible, horrible man. A lot of the times when I get laughs, I don't think they're laughing at me. I think it's sort of a release of nervousness. 'Do I laugh?' 'Am I going with him?' 'Please don't be so awful.' That's fun to play."

Yes, he's open for more of the same. "I do plenty of these," the actor revealed. "I do all sorts of stuff, but nobody sees them because they are plays that I do in the hinterlands or stock, but nobody lets me do them on television or in films."

Another surprise bit of casting in The Big Knife is Marin Ireland, glamorously putting forth the role of the star's wife, and she looks terrific in the elegant vintage wardrobe that Catherine Zuber provided. "I love being in those outfits," she said.

"I think Marion is really a modern woman. She has got a lot of strength about her. She doesn't take a lot of [sh*t] from anybody. She's trying to hold her family together in the only way she knows how. She's very smart, but she's also really led by her heart. She's like an addict in that relationship she has with Charlie."

It would not be surprising that leftist Odets had a few run-ins with right-wing gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, and that basically is how Brenda Wehle plays her: "I think he meant her to be an amalgamation of gossip columnists, but when I read about Hedda Hopper, it seemed much more Hopper to me. If I follow the leads from the playwright anyway, she's got a huge fan base. She's gotta turn it out. She's a busy woman. She's a moralist. She thinks she's important politically—but she really is."

Chip Zien comes on like a fireball as Charlie's emphatic, fast-talking agent—one of the play's few positive characters. "My own agents came backstage after the show, and I said that I was honoring them. They thought it was such a nice portrayal of a thoughtful agent who loves his client. I said, 'But that's how I feel about you guys.'"

One of the most negative characters is Hoff's ruthless deputy with the oily name of Smiley Coy. "Hey, I'm a happy fellow," lies Reg Rogers, who plays the guy constantly stirring the cauldron of conflict. "He's a mix all right, but he's a fixer as well. We had Odets' son down here, and he sat and chatted with us. Such a dear thing! Clifford Odets was so heartfelt of his work. Everything he touched he had serious beliefs."


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