Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Building Character: Denis O’Hare by Mark Blankenship

Mark Blankenship our good buddy recently interevewed Denis O' Hare

Welcome to Building Character, TDF’s ongoing series about actors and how they create their roles.
When we first meet Elling, the title character in the Broadway play now at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, he’s hiding in a wardrobe. From his roommate. In a mental hospital.
His behavior is just as quirky in the outside world: Somewhere between his disastrous attempt to order pizza and his decision to hide original poems in boxes of sauerkraut, it becomes clear that Elling is not like other guys.

Yet there is something familiar about him. Elling charms because Elling, his roommate Kjell, and their pregnant neighbor Reidun are strange people facing everyday problems. When they’re ordering in a restaurant and there’s no more soup, they don’t just get disappointed: They have a conniption fit. We can laugh at them because we recognize our own tendency to turn small nuisances into global news.
Of course, getting us to laugh is delicate work. “This play is a tightrope,” says Denis O’Hare, who plays Elling. “It has a very narrow shelf you can exist on. If we are too casual about these guys, then we don’t pay homage to their unique circumstance. You kind of go, ‘Well, why is he in an asylum? He looks like a normal Joe.’ But if we go in the direction of making them too mentally ill, the audience won’t laugh because you’re not going to make fun of someone you feel is ill.”

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