HOMEBODY IS WHERE THE HEART IS
When Linda Emond steps onto the stage of BAM's Harvey Theater on Tuesday it will be her third time taking on the title character of Tony Kushner's Homebody/Kabul. But this production, which co-stars Maggie Gyllenhall and Reed Birney, differs substantially from the one that was seen two years ago at the New York Theater Workshop, for which Emond won an OBIE. It's not even the same as the version that was presented last fall at the Mark Taper Forum in L.A.
"The development of a piece like this is a very intricate, complex thing," says Emond, who started working on Homebody way back in 1999. "Tony is very emotional during these rehearsals because it feels like the end of a long journey. I've lived many lives since that first reading; I am a different person than I was then or even than I was last year, when I was in Life (x) 3 [which earned Emond a Tony Award nomination]. That was a fantastic experience. I loved that play and I loved that cast."
In Homebody, Emond is on stage by herself and talking constantly for the play's entire first act, which runs a staggering 53 minutes. "It's a humbling experience," she says. "Every time I look at my monologue, I learn more and more about the character. The only odd thing is, I know so many different versions that I once found myself saying something from a previous version while on stage. To me, doing this monologue is live theater at its most heightened. I don't feel like I am alone; my scene partners are the entire audience and, every night, I get to have a conversation with them."
Emond is planning to take a break from stage work after this run of the play concludes on May 30, just as she refrained from doing theater in between the Taper and BAM runs. "Over the past few years," she explains, "I've found that I can't bring my best to a production if I'm working from a drier well. If I had done another play after the Taper, I know I would have been working from limited resources."
HENSLEY'S MAKE-UP EXAM
If you wonder where Shuler Hensley has been since the closing of Oklahoma!, the answer arrives on Friday with the debut of the film Van Helsing. The larger-than-life, 37-year-old actor -- who earned the Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Awards for his performance as Jud Fry -- spent six months in Prague and California shooting the role of Frankenstein's monster. The part required a major physical transformation: "When we started, it took six hours a day to do the makeup," he says, "but then we got it down to four-and-a-half. As I sat there in my chair, I literally watched myself disappear."
One major benefit of doing the film was reuniting with pal Hugh Jackman, who played Curly in the London production of Oklahoma! and who stars as the film's title character. "Hugh was the first one to call me after I had been cast," Hensley says, adding that neither actor knew of the other's involvement when Hensley went in to audition. "It was one of those freaky coincidences that was just meant to be."
On the set, the actors amused themselves, their families, and anyone else on hand by doing what comes naturally: singing. According to Hensley, "Hugh was practicing all that Peter Allen stuff [which he now sings in The Boy From Oz] and I would sing whatever came into my head, from Show Boat to Sweeney Todd. I think there's even a gag roll of me singing Christina Aguilera's 'Beautiful' in full monster make-up."
Hensley has just moved back to his home state of Georgia to await the birth of his second child, a son (due May 10), who will join 3-year-old daughter Skyler. Later this year, the former college athlete plans to co-star as a college athletic coach in a new movie -- written by his brother, Sam -- about the West Georgia College cheerleading squad. That should require a lot less make-up.
Two decades ago, Colin Hay, lead singer of the Australian rock group Men at Work, spent his nights playing in front of tens of thousands of people. These days, it's more often just him, his guitar, his stories about his life and the band, and a few hundred people. That's exactly what's happening at the Village Theater, where his solo show Man @ Work continues through May 15.
"I quite like the small crowds," says Hay, who now lives in Los Angeles. "I did a show last year here at the Canal Room for about 300 people and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I started playing acoustic guitar when I was a 14-year-old in 1967 and I took it up again in 1991 after MCA dropped me. I thought that, while I was making my plan for total world domination again, I would just go out and do what I knew how to do. And then I found that people would get a giggle out of the stories I would tell between songs. It turns out that, sometimes, the things you do best aren't the things you planned to do at all."
Men at Work's 1982 album Business as Usual sold over 10 million copies internationally, spawned the smash hit single "Who Can It Be Now," and earned the band the Grammy Award for Best New Artist. But all of that came close to not happening, says Hay: "Our record company here didn't want to release Business as Usual because they didn't think it had any hits. It didn't seem to matter to them that we had hits everywhere else. Of course, once it came out and it was a huge success, everyone jumped on the 'We knew it would be a hit' bandwagon."
If you miss Man @ Work here, you'll get another chance to see it this summer when Hay performs at the Edinburgh Festival in his home country of Scotland. "I was at the Festival about 10 years ago," Hay relates. "You get so inspired just being there, seeing all these creative talents packed into one place. Plus you get a chance to walk around one of the most beautiful towns on earth."
IT'S AN HONOR
The Paper Mill Playhouse will honor Angelo Del Rossi, its president emeritus, at Birchwood Manor on May 8. Performers will include Carol Channing, Chita Rivera, Marcia Lewis, Betsy Palmer, and James Brennan...Our Time Theater Company, which provides an artistic home for people who stutter, will honor Bronx Zoo honcho Dr. Alan Rabinowitz at its annual benefit at the Lucille Lortel on May 10. Jane Alexander will host the event, which will also feature performances by Adam Pascal, Everett Bradley, and the cast of Stomp...Outgoing P.S. 122 executive director Mark Russell will be saluted with a "Rave Revue" at Capitale on May 12 featuring such downtown denizens as Eric Bogosian, Karen Finley, John Kelly, and Meredith Monk.
Also on May 12, Hal Holbrook (who is celebrating his 50th year performing as Mark Twain) and wife Dixie Carter will be feted at a dinner at Marymount Manhattan College by such good friends as Kate Nelligan, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, and Celeste Holm with her brand new, much younger husband Frank Basile in tow. The Holbrooks will receive Marymount's president's medal on May 13...The extraordinary Kathleen Chalfant, who received the Edith Oliver Award for Sustained Excellence at the Lucille Lortel Awards ceremony on Monday, will be honored for her work during the Vineyard Theater's annual benefit on May 24 at the TriBeCa Rooftop...The peerless Meryl Streep will be paid tribute by Kevin Kline and Tony Kushner at the New Dramatists' 55th annual benefit luncheon on May 27 at the Marriott Marquis.
THEY'VE GOT IT MAID
Wednesday night's performance of Caroline, or Change had both the stars and the moon. In attendance: original Assassins co-stars Victor Garber and Debra Monk, sitting together; Scott Ellis (who will direct Garber, Judith Ivey, and Zoe Caldwell in the Los Angeles Opera production of A Little Night Music this summer); NYPD Blue star Esai Morales (who joined the ABC police drama many seasons after Monk's Emmy-winning turn); Gilmore Girls co-stars Lauren Graham and Chris Eigeman; and one of Caroline's many brave producers, the ever-gracious Daryl Roth.
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