Interview: Peter Friedman Doesn’t Share the Secrets of His Latest Job

The Succession vet stays mum about his enigmatic new off-Broadway role.

0100 Sydney Lemmon and Peter Friedman in JOB at SoHo Playhouse © Emilio Madrid
Sydney Lemmon and Peter Friedman in Job at SoHo Playhouse
(© Emilio Madrid)

One of the most respected actors in New York, Peter Friedman has spent nearly 50 years on the stage, resulting in a host of memorable performances, along with two Drama Desk Awards, a Drama League nomination for Distinguished Performance, and a Tony Award nomination (for Ragtime).

Another honor may be in his future for Max Wolf Friedlich’s twisty two-hander Job, now at the SoHo Playhouse. In the one-act play, Friedman plays Loyd, a therapist dealing with a unhappy former employee of a major technology company (played by Sydney Lemmon). As their session progress, it turns out their may be another connection between patient and doctor.

TheaterMania recently spoke to Friedman about why he signed on to this unusual drama and the secrets that it holds.

This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

What attracts you most when considering a play — the writing, the character, or the subject matter? And what attracted you most to Job?
For me, it always starts with the script. I thought this play was really well written. But I had some questions about some of its internal logic and structure that had to be addressed by the playwright and the director, Michael Herwitz, before I signed on. So, one day, we read it aloud, I posed my questions to them, and they were answered. Then in July, we had a weeklong workshop, where I realized just how good Michael is at keeping the tension where it’s needed, especially in the middle of the play. After all, I am working with a group of young people, none of whom I knew before, and doing that is both thrilling and scary. But I have been so impressed with how they know how to do everything.

Speaking of different generations, are you already getting different audience reactions from younger people than older people?
Yes, I believe my generation will appreciate this play a little less than others, since, without giving too much away, it’s basically a cri de coeur from the younger generation to the Boomers about what we have done to society. But we Boomers still get some of our points made.

Were you worried about the amount of dialogue you have in play? There’s a lot to say and memorize in this two-hander.
I was wondering, since it had been six years between plays for me, if I would be okay with remembering everything. So far, so good. But the person who has the biggest challenge in terms of lines, and character, is Sydney Lemmon. And she nails it every night. She is just amazing.

What are the challenges of sharing the stage with only one other actor?
I don’t think there are any challenges, per se; at least none that I don’t wish to engage with. I mean, this is why I’m here. The only challenge might have been what to do if there wasn’t a meeting of the minds with one’s partner in the effort. Which leads me to the joys. Sydney is a far better actor at this stage of her career than I could have ever hoped to be in my youth. Her work ethic, talent, creativity, her loveliness is all I could want in a colleague, on a project of this intensity.

You’ve worked with many of the greatest directors of the American stage. Who did you learn the most from?
I have learned a lot from the most recent generation, like Sam Gold [Uncle Vanya] and Carolyn Cantor [Fly by Night]. They shaped me to become the actor I am today and I don’t know if I would be the same person without their guidance. When we did Uncle Vanya at Soho Rep, Sam was giving us directions, and he said “You know how actors get up the energy before they get onstage and bring that to the show. I want you guys to do the opposite thing.” That was so cool and something I’d never heard before.

You’ve worked on stage for about 50 years. Why is it so important to you keep working in this medium?
What else would I do? What would I retire to? Doing my laundry every day? In the last few years, for some reason, the ride keeps going and going. And in every play, there are always great problems to solve. That’s what I really enjoy.

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Final performance: October 29, 2023