"As far as I know, I don't kill anybody in the show," Bryce Pinkham said of his latest Broadway role. For several years, the Tony Award nominee, most recently seen onstage in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, appeared to be carving a path of killer roles, starting as the scheming Carl Bruner in Ghost the Musical in 2012.
Pinkham will be showing a different side of his talents when he begins performances as Peter Patrone in The Heidi Chronicles, Wendy Wasserstein's Tony and Pulitzer-Prize winning play that is receiving its first Broadway revival starting Feb. 23. After singing and dancing his way through 20th-century England, Pinkham now finds himself in 20th-century New York, playing the fast-talking, witty Peter, a friend to Heidi as she moves from a 1960s high school dance through college, feminist activism and her successful career as an art historian.
"Peter definitely has a way with words... The characters [Wendy Wasserstein] writes are very smart, very articulate," Pinkham said. "The way that they interact with each other, the way that Heidi and Peter interact with each other, is poetic but also represents a certain New York sensibility — just go, go, go. At certain points when that energy shifts, the audience really feels it, hopefully, and really feels them drop into something deeper."
Performing in a play excites Pinkham, who, after appearing in Ghost and Gentleman's Guide, as well as the musical adaptation of Love's Labour's Lost and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, said the staging gives him greater opportunity for freedom. "In a musical there are notes on the page, there are places on the stage where you have to end up, there are light cues that depend on your singing a certain thing at a certain time," he said. "In a play, there's a little more freedom for the actor to say, 'I know I know the story, I know the lines, I know the gorgeous set we've been given — but now let's go find whatever it wants to be tonight.' That, for an actor, is really exciting: to know that in some way, anything could happen. And that's the dream of theatre, when it feels like it's really actually happening for the first time. A play, for me, sets up that opportunity a little more than a musical does, and they each come with their corresponding challenges."
The revival of The Heidi Chronicles marks one of three works by women being mounted on Broadway in the spring season, and the fact that the play was written by a female playwright was part of its attraction to Pinkham.
"It was one of the things that got me most excited about this — to be a part of the team that's bringing that back to Broadway," he said. "I think it's an important thing to have a distinct New York voice back on Broadway. But not only that: a female voice, a female leading character, a female director and cast that's mostly female.
"That shouldn't be an extraordinary thing, but it is even in our day and age, so to be a part of that I'm very proud."
A question pondered by Heidi throughout the play is if a woman can "have it all," and Pinkham believes that question is equally relevant to audiences in 2015.
"Does she? Can she? What does one give up in order to have a piece of it all? And of those individual pieces, what suffers?" he asked. "If a woman wants to be successful in her professional life, does she sacrifice something in her personal or her desire to have a family? It's different for men and women, and that is why Wendy is asking us to consider Heidi and say, 'Yes, in all respects, she does have it all, but what did it cost her to get that? Is she happy about that, as compared to her contemporaries?'" Heidi's story, and her search for personal and professional fulfillment, is one that resonates deeply with Pinkham, who described the play as "timeless but also sort of like a time capsule," emphasizing its present-day relevance.
"She wrote about a really specific journey of her life that came to represent many women's lives of that generation, but in reading through the play in these early days it feels oddly contemporary, as if it could be happening on our streets and in our neighborhoods," he added, remembering a conversation with a woman who saw the original Broadway production with her then-teenage daughter, adding that her daughter is now a young woman with her own career and child.
"I said, 'I'd love to talk to the both of you after you return the show again, together, a mother and a daughter like that,'" Pinkham said. "It almost got me a little teary thinking about that…. That's really exciting to me. That's the reason we do revivals, to say, 'How have we done? What questions still remain, and how far have we to go?'"
(Carey Purcell is the Features Editor of Playbill.com. Her work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow her on Twitter @PlaybillCarey.)