Living Outside Oblivion
Both on stage and in person, New Jersey native Peter Dinklage lives up to the “short, dark, and handsome” sobriquet he recently received from Timeout New York. He’s probably best known from Tom DeCillo’s indie film, Living in Oblivion, for his striking top-hat-and-tails send-up of the dancing dwarf in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. During the last six months, Dinklage has had three memorable Off-Broadway stage roles in a row, beginning with the handsome, but hardhearted, Prince Charming in Poona the F**k Dog at the Adobe Theatre Company. Then came Beppo, a cynically honest comedia clown in the stage version of his Williamsburg, Brooklyn, neighbor Brandon Cole’s Imperfect Love (the basis for Illuminata, starring John Turturro and Susan Sarandon).
Now Dinklage returns to Performance Works (“my second home”) as a radically different kind of clown. I Wanna Be Adored by Marc Spitz, a hip, late-nite hit at this downtown hot spot is an ’80s, post-punk, black comedy about a Goth-scene suicide, …Adored, loosely based on the real-life suicide of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, features Dinklage as Bobby Lemondrops,
a “Krusty the clown”-type stand-up comic in a purgatory Limbo Lounge–cig in one hand and martini in the other–easily stealing every scene he’s in. “I loved the script,” he enthuses. “I asked to play Bobby. I admire his honesty. He loves women and he wants people to have a good time. Of course, I wouldn’t want to try stand-up without a script–that’s just scary.” Bobby was also the clear favorite of an SRO opening night audience, which included his friend Liev Schreiber.
“I seem to play a lot of wisecracking, cynical characters,” muses Dinklage over an iced tea at a Chelsea diner, “but what I really want is to play the romantic lead and get the girl.” He comes close in Human Nature, a film written by Charlie Kaufman and produced by Spike Jonze (of Being John Malkovich fame), shooting in Los Angeles this June. “The film stars Patricia Arquette and Tim Robbins, and I play Rosie Perez’s boyfriend,” he reveals, adding with a laugh, “but it’s still not the lead. And then I’m back here to shoot Eric Schaeffer’s new film, Never Again, about the horrors of blind dates.” He had to be in LA during the first week of …Adored–“It’s purely financial, I’m really anti-LA” –so his buddy (and the play’s director) Carlo Vogel filled in for him.
Which leads directly to Dinklage and the “Bennington bunch”. “I grew up in Marchtown, New Jersey, and my parents wanted me to go to NYU, but I wanted to get away,” he explains.
By the time he graduated Bennington in ’91, Dinklage had formed several lifelong friendships with the likes of actor/playwright Jonathan Marc Sherman, playwright Spitz, and actor/director Vogel, all of whom are currently involved in this production. Sherman plays a fallen angel, and he and Dinklage even list each other as “best friends” in the program credits.
“Peter Hedges was teaching at Bennington and wrote a part for me in a play called The Destiny of Pete, which Carlo and I did at the Manhattan Class Company. Parts followed in shows and/or readings at such hip New York Off- and Off-Off venues as Alice’s Fourth Floor and Naked Angels. He also did a play with actor Tom McCarthy (30 Days), a non-Bennington friend, who wrote Dinklage a role in his upcoming directorial debut, The Conductor, a romance set in New Jersey.
“I haven’t had to audition for theater for a long time,” Dinklage admits, though clearly it’s not all nepotism. Although he’s had bits and pieces on New York’s television scene–“I was recently background for an argument scene in Tom Fontana’s The Beat“–he’s actually very picky about his roles, especially commercials. “My agent knows better than to send me up for a K-Mart spot as Santa’s helper, which explains why I’m poor. But that’s the choice I’ve made.”