In Theresa Rebeck’s new play Poor Behavior, she uses her hilarious and often cynical eye to examine marriage, possible infidelity, morality and the meaning of goodness — fitting subjects for everyone including Hollywood stars who were in attendance on opening night Sunday. Red carpet arrivals included actor/director Tony Goldwyn (yes, the grandson of the famous Samuel) who recently directed Hilary Swank in Conviction. Peter MacNicol arrived in cool jeans and tennis shoes, which signaled he was not planning to attend the swanky cast party after the show. Too bad, we would have loved to chat with him about his incredible body of work.
Actor/writer David Dean Bottrell was impressed when I stopped him outside the theater and quoted from his YouTube upload, Go Speed Dater Go. Yes, David, if it’s on YouTube you are forever branded. “I’m here to see my very good old friend Sharon Lawrence who I’ve known”¦” He paused. “Well, I guess I won’t tell you how long because she’ll kill me. But she’s fantastic and I heard the play is brilliant and I can’t wait to see it.”Â Asked about the play’s subject of marriage, Bottrell said, “I think marriage is what you make it. Fantastic or not so great, it’s what you make it.” Ah, sounds like someone in a relationship? “Nope. I’m single at the moment, a believer in marriage and,” he laughed, “available.”
Bottrell added, “You should come see my new show.Â It’s called David D. Bottrell Makes Love: A One Man Show. First performance is Nov 16, and I’m directing a play based on Graham Greene’s novel Travels With My Aunt at the Colony Theatre opening Nov 9.”
After the show we drove a few blocks to the fabulous McCormick & Schmick’s, where the wine and drinks flowed and the menu was too extensive to list. Suffice it to say between the prawns, clams, oysters, salmon, tortillas, pasta dishes and finger-licking deserts, I could barely pull myself away to chat with the celebs. A major Chat Choice for downtown pre-theater dining.
I spotted actress Charlayne Woodard with a plateful of goodies and nowhere to sit. Aha! Offering her a chair and saving another for her niece who was still on the buffet line, we chatted. “I loved it. You know, in a way it reminded me of God of Carnage. I still have to synthesize it so I don’t have much to say except the first act had me crazy with laughter and madness. It really did evoke those weekends in upstate NY when couples that have a history come together and everyone lets it all hang out. I’m still synthesizing the second act so I don’t have anything to say about it yet because it takes a completely different turn.” And what is next on the agenda for this talented actress and writer? “I have a play coming to the Kirk Douglas on Nov 17 ““ Dec 18 called The Night Watcher. It’s a solo play I wrote based on the young people in my life – as a woman with no children who has 40 children I did not give birth to ““ my relationship with them as an auntie, confidant and friend.”
Next, finding my way to a glass of Chardonnay I ran into someone who looked like actor Chad Coleman. Was he? He said, “Yes.” And he laughed when I told him he looked too happy to be the bad guy whose work I admired on HBO’s The Wire and Fox’s Terminator: The Sara Connor Chronicles. “Just give me a minute.” Coleman got a glass of wine and returned. “I can’t let you drink alone.” What a gentleman. Then he smiled and I remembered Coleman was also in the comedy Horrible Bosses with Jennifer Aniston. “I actually have a new comedy called I Hate My Teenage Daughter on Fox with Katie Finneran (two-time Tony winner). It premieres this fall.” And what brought him to the Taper tonight? “I’m a huge Theresa Rebeck fan. It started way back when I was auditioning for a play of hers in NY and I was so taken with her work. Also, I’m here because Johanna Day is a very dear friend. We did the national tour of The Exonerated together in 2003 directed by Bob Balaban and we’ve been friends ever since. She’s such a wonderful actress. They all are.”
Coleman responded to the topics Rebeck deals with in the play. “As a divorced father, anything the writer brought up certainly was food for thought. Much of what she put on the table I’ve been wrestling with myself. Those were very profound questions. It’s a tough cookie. You know in the New Testament, Jesus says if you’re thinking it, you’ve done it, so don’t even think it.” Did he believe that’s true? “No. The mind is a playground. It’s the actualization of the thought that’s the real deal and the only way you can damage another human being. In this play it was actualized. And, even if it wasn’t, words can hurt. To me when you verbalize something, it becomes physical. As long as the thought is only in my head I can’t hurt anybody. I can do damage to myself with unhealthy thinking, but as far as hurting another person, if the thought stays within the privacy of my mind and body, I can’t hurt another person.”
The talented cast members arrived, and Coleman mingled at the bar with friends Sandra Oh and Johanna Day as I coaxed Sharon Lawrence away from sensational co-stars Reg Rogers and Christopher Evan Welch for a quick “chat”. The fast-paced first act, with actors talking over one another yet allowing an audience to laugh, was perfection. “We adjust to the timing of the audience and the way they listen. It varies from audience to audience. Some are more attuned to the cynicism right away. There are others that are perhaps more romantically inclined, so you can sense their huge disappointment when the bonds of marriage are broken in a way that is entertaining but still devastating. I think they are all a bit provoked by different things, but no one will go home without a thought or discussion with themselves or the person they saw the show with. It’s such a modern piece and it’s time we asked these questions about our culture. That’s part of the gift of the play.”
Lawrence defined her character as “such a damaged woman. Marriage for her is a haven and I believe that’s true for many people, but does that mean it’s the truest place for happiness? That depends on the individual. I think we all have to acknowledge that in our culture marriage does not equate with good character, it just doesn’t.”
With an extensive career in television, Lawrence made a conscious choice to do a play each year. “ My agent read it, saw the people who were involved and suggested me for it. I worked with Theresa on NYPD Blue many years ago. Also, I’m a huge fan of Doug’s (director Hughes) work. When they saw what I was going to do with the material they all said, yes. I’ve played so many different characters that I can’t say my choice to do theater is about trying to stretch my range, because I’ve had that gift throughout my career. For me, it’s the team that determines my decision. And, this is the best team.”
Poor Behavior continues at the Taper through Oct 16.
CHAT CITE: “Half the world believes in God.”
“Half the world are fucking idiots.” “¦ from Poor Behavior, by Theresa Rebeck.
All photos by Â©Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging