THE LEADING MEN: Jefferson Mays Wears Many Hats (and Boots and Bustles and Coats) in the New Musical A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

By Evan Henerson
12 Mar 2013

Mays as Lady Hyacinth D'Ysquith.
Photo by Henry DiRocco

Lady Hyacinth D'Ysquith — Missionary, a Woman of a Certain Age
Mays: "She's a great big dreadnought of a woman with huge breasts and an enormous bustle. In many ways, she's the most masculine member of the family despite her sex. She carries a parasol which she brandishes like a mace or a broad sword."

Major Lord Bartholomew D'Ysquith — a Ridiculously Musclebound Health Nut
Mays: "We have him in this absurd 19th-century workout costume with leather belts and buckles and garters and snaps and trusses. He has this outlandish handlebar mustache. The costumes do so much of the work. If you put on a muscle suit, it affects the way move. You can't put your arms down to the side or do anything useful with them."

Lady Salome D'Ysquith Pumphrey — a Flamboyantly Awful Actress
Mays: "She appears playing Hedda Gabler. We made the wonderful discovery that she would probably be doing this in Danish which — I didn't know this — was the language of the Norwegian elite and the language that Ibsen wrote in. So for this role, I spent my time learning the words in Danish. It's a very short appearance. I go out there, saw the air a bit, speak Danish and blow my brains out."

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Mays explains, "Several times during the run at Hartford, I would hear bits of conversations in the restroom to the effect of, 'Oh, isn't it wonderful that they got actors who look more or less the same to play the various members of the family.' That made me both very happy and very depressed. I was heartened by the fact that they weren't sure how many actors were playing the role, but they obviously hadn't read the program."

Read more about A Gentlemen's Guide to Love and Murder, which has lyrics by Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak. music by Lutvak
and book by Freedman. 

(Evan Henerson is a Los Angeles-based arts writer and former theater critic for the Los Angeles Daily News. His work has appeared in American Theatre, Backstage and Stage Directions.)

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