Nathan Lane talks turkey about his starring role in November and Deanna Dunagan proves she's no shrinking violet in August: Osage County.
"It's very good to be the president when David Mamet is supplying the words for you. People in his plays communicate in very interesting ways," says Lane. "I think the play is wildly funny and very topical, and certainly what David is saying really appealed to me. I also understood this character and it felt comfortable to me to play him. So I very quickly said, 'count me in.'"
Still, Lane says that one of the biggest reasons he took the part was a chance to collaborate again with director -- and old friend -- Joe Mantello. "We've always had a great rapport ever since he directed me in Love! Valour! Compassion!, and he's become so celebrated since then for his work," says Lane. "I'm really in his debt for thinking of me for this particular part."
Lane notes that November actually marks the third time he's been asked to work on a Mamet play. "Right when I was finishing The Producers, I got this call from David, who said to me 'You know this play of mine called Boston Marriage. Well, I would like you to do it and play the lead woman," he recalls. "And I said, 'I always hoped you would ask me to be in one of your plays, but I always hoped it would be to play a man.' Anyway, I read the play and I loved it, but I knew I was tired and I needed to take some time off. A couple of years later, he asked me to do Romance, but I wasn't available. So I was convinced I would never be asked by him again to do a play. But, in the end, I think this is the one that was worth waiting for. I don't want to oversell it, but I think it's incredible."
NO SHRINKING VIOLET
Perhaps no performance has been better reviewed this year than Deanna Dunagan's turn as the vicious-tongued Violet Weston in the Steppenwolf Theatre Company's production of Tracy Letts' August: Osage County. She already earned Chicago's coveted Joseph Jefferson Award for her work, and the Tony Award buzz is deafening. Dunagan laughs when asked if she's aware of all the acclaim. "My goodness, there's no way to escape it. Even the crew members are bringing in the reviews," she says. "And after opening night, I got 70 emails. But I think the acclaim is because of the role, it doesn't matter who does it."
Indeed, the veteran actress almost turned down the part due to its physical demands. "Before the play opened in Chicago, I had done a production of The Chalk Garden where I kept going up and down the stairs a lot, like I do in this play, and after a while I just couldn't do it. My knees kept giving out," she says. "When I read August, I knew the play was good -- though I didn't know how good at the time -- so I decided to go into physical training every day for six months, and figured I could do the part for two months and then it would be over. So when they said we were coming to New York, I was actually depressed. I felt I couldn't leave the show -- there wouldn't be any time for anyone else to learn the part -- and, of course, I didn't want anyone else to do my part, but I didn't know how I could do the show."
Other actresses might have been more afraid of the role's emotional demands -- Violet constantly abuses her three daughters and anyone else in her path -- but Dunagan never shied away from them. "She's a monster, and I understand the reasons for her being the way she is. I say there are reasons, but no excuses for how she behaves," says Dunagan. "She knows how to find everyone's sore spots and jab at them, like a mean drunk does. I do know people like that. Also, Violet is a smart woman, but not an educated one, and she resents that she was a wife and mother and nothing else."
Dunagan says the response to the show in New York is slightly different than in Chicago, where she shared the stage with 10 of the 12 current cast members. "The laughs here have been wildly unpredictable from audience to audience, where in Chicago, they were the same every night. Here it can be quiet as a tomb or there's lots of nervous laughter, or they're really howling. And sometimes, I think because the house is so much bigger that it just takes more time for the laughs to hit the stage."
ARE THE STARS OUT TONIGHT?
Plenty of stars have been seen taking in events around town: Eric Bogosian at the November 28 performance of Lincoln Center's Cymbeline; Betsy Aidem and Carolyn McCormick at the November 29 performance of Trumpery at the Atlantic; David Pittu at the December 2 matinee of The Seafarer; Victoria Clark, Veanne Cox, and Neal Huff at the Vineyard Theatre's December 3 benefit reading of Raised in Captivity; Audra McDonald and daughter Zoe Donovan at the December 4 performance of The Little Mermaid, and opera great Renee Fleming at the December 5 performance of the Disney hit.
But the who's who event of the month was the December 3 screening of the Sweeney Todd film at the Regal E-Walk. Joining host Stephen Sondheim -- and unexpected special guests Tim Burton and Johnny Depp -- were such Broadway luminaries as Brooke Shields, John Lloyd Young, Julia Murney, Roger Rees, Rick Elice, and Christopher Sieber, to name but a few of the tale's happy attendees!
LET THEM ENTERTAIN YOU
On December 17, there will be numerous benefits for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS across the country, including Broadway's own annual Gypsy of the Year, which will feature special appearances by Chita Rivera, Carol Lawrence and many original cast members from the original 1957 Broadway production of West Side Story. Meanwhile, cast members from the national tour of High School Musical will take part in The Afterschool Special at L.A.'s The Knitting Factory, while cast members from the Chicago productions of Altar Boyz, Jersey Boyz, and Wicked will appear in An Altar Boyz Christmas at the Seneca Hotel.
As the month continues in the Big Apple, Shana Dowdesdell, Steve Press, Bruce Sabath, and Tony Award winner Brian Backer will star in a reading of Meyer Levin's Anne Frank on December 18 and 19 at NYC's Medicine Show Theatre; Hank Azaria, George Wendt, Alicia Witt and David Yazbek will be at the Zipper Factory on December 20 for a special holiday edition of Don't Quit Your Night Job; famed playwright Israel Horovitz will lead a post-show discussion at the opening of The Honor and Glory of Whaling at LaMama on December 28; and renowned vocalist Linda Eder will entertain the New Year's Eve crowds at Feinstein's at the Loews Regency.