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Loose Lips

Jonathan Hammond is one of the Boys; Lauren Kennedy plays with the Girls; Merritt Wever has Female trouble.

By New York City
Jonathan Hammond
(© Joseph Marzullo/WENN)
Jonathan Hammond
(© Joseph Marzullo/WENN)
Not everyone might see the parallels between the musical Ragtime and Mart Crowley's landmark 1968 drama The Boys in the Band, which is currently being revived by the Transport Group. But Jonathan Hammond, who played Harry Houdini in the recent Broadway revival of the musical and now has the lead role of Michael in this production of Boys, made the connection.

"In the same way that Ragtime deals with issues that happened to African-Americans as a sad part of their history, Boys deals with some of the civil rights issues and personal issues of the gay community," he says. "We're still asking how we fit in or if we can love the same way as other people. But I think it's a mistake to call it a play about self-loathing gay guys, as has been done. I think it's a play about guys who are yearning to find love, to be involved, and find acceptance, and I think everyone leaves the party [in the play] with a different sense of themselves before the party started."

Hammond admits there is something of a generation gap in regards to the work. "When I talk to gay men over 45, they can quote lines from the play. It really means something special to them, and almost everyone has a story about it," he says. "But with a lot of gay men under 40, they'll say 'what's that play?' I always tell them it's something they really need to know about as part of their history and culture."

Having Crowley involved in the revival has been quite special, and a little daunting, says Hammond. "I definitely feel a responsibility to him, and I do think he's more Michael than any of the other characters in the play," he says. "But it's really cute how he'll go up to each cast member individually and say, "you know Larry is me" or something like that."

The actor will be on the stage in 1960s-inspired clothing, and Michael's wardrobe of designer sweaters is a welcome change of pace from the skintight garb he wore as Houdini. "When I got cast as Houdini, I knew part of what was going to make it fun was looking good in those costumes, so I just got into it. But the minute Ragtime closed, I went back to being Mister Pizza-and-Bourbon," he says with a laugh.

Next Page: Lauren Kennedy


Sally Mayes and Lauren Kennedy in Good Ol' Girls
(© Carol Rosegg)
Sally Mayes and Lauren Kennedy in Good Ol' Girls
(© Carol Rosegg)
Lauren Kennedy is making something of a mini-career about appearing in all-female shows. Last year, she appeared in the Second Stage Theatre's production of the musical Vanities -- the CD of which was just released -- and this spring, she'll play Shelby in a production of Steel Magnolias at the Flat Rock Playhouse in North Carolina. Currently, she's in the Off-Broadway musical Good Ol' Girls, featuring the songs of Matarca Berg and Marshall Chapman, now at the Steinberg Center for the Arts.

"I love this piece; it's something I've been hearing about for years." says Kennedy. "It's this slice of life about southern women, and it's full of these amazing scenes, monologues, and songs. I love that the women depicted in this show have something important to say about life. But while the show is from a woman's perspective, I think it also appeals to men, because they will recognize these women as their mothers, their wives, and their friends."

Doing the show has other advantages for Kennedy. "The other women in the cast are astounding; working with Sally Mayes and Teri Ralston is like being part of a master class, and we are getting along brilliantly," she says. "And I get to play an instrument, which is fun since I am not particularly musical."

Working in the Steinberg Center's black box space is another appealing part of the project, says Kennedy. "It's really like a living room," she notes. "So it feels like we're inviting the audience to be part of a conversation rather than just performing songs for them."

Next Page: Merritt Wever


Merritt Weaver in The Female of the Species
(© Michael Lamont)
Merritt Weaver in The Female of the Species
(© Michael Lamont)
As young nurse Zoey Barkow on Showtime's acclaimed series Nurse Jackie, actress Merritt Wever has learned how to handle a syringe. Now, for her role as pistol-toting aggrieved student Molly in the Geffen Playhouse's production of Joanna Murray-Smith's The Female of the Species, she's tackled a bigger challenge. "The first time I had to hold a real gun on stage was very uncomfortable," she admits. "And we had to change guns, because it turns out I have weak hands and I was having trouble pulling the trigger on the first one. On stage, you have to be very careful where you shoot."

The person Molly is planning to shoot is egotistical feminist author Margot Mason, (played by Annette Bening) whom Molly feels has done her wrong. Could Wever imagine herself in a similar situation? "I don't have that same sense of wanting revenge," says Wever. "A lot of people have said, 'oh, I would want to take so-and-so hostage,' but my hatred tends to turn inward. But one of the things I like about the play is that the situation isn't really black-and-white; Joanna is a smarter writer than that."

Smart writing has also been a hallmark of Nurse Jackie, which has helped to make Wever's character among the series' most popular. "I think people relate to Zoey because everyone has been the new person somewhere, who has to ingratiate themselves," she says. "This season, we'll have a new boy -- not someone who is new to the medical profession, but new to the hospital. Meanwhile, Zoey is going to be a lot more confident and comfortable; she'll definitely be spreading her wings a little."

Working with Bening and with Edie Falco, who plays the title role in Nurse Jackie, has been a wonderful experience, adds Wever. "It's great to be working with these smart women and I've learned so much just by watching them," she says. "I am not somebody who tries to look for role models, but I wouldn't have to look very far if I did."


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