Volume 78 / Number 16, September 17 - 23, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Written by Nicky Silver
Directed by Wilson Milam
416 West 42nd Street
One block west of Ninth Ave.
(212) 279-4200; playwrightshorizons.org
Maura Tierney as Laurel, Brian J. Smith as Gordon and Scott Cohen as Hal in Playwrights Horizons production of Three Changes, a new play by Nicky Silver.
Hate him (he wants you to)
In Three Changes, actor Brian J. Smith bares his teeth
By Jerry Tallmer
Such a nice boy. Such an evil part.
The boy well, hes 27 actually is Brian J. Smith. The part is that of Gordon in Nicky Silvers Three Changes, opening September 16 at Playwrights Horizons.
Gordon, a flashy, snakelike, well-bred 19-year-old who has been sleeping in the streets or wherever the buck and the john will lead for a couple of months, is brought into the play by one of those customers, Hal (Scott Cohen), a failing, coke-sniffing Hollywood writer who has himself only just, after years of non-communicative absence, showed up for refuge at the Upper West Side Manhattan apartment of his businessman brother, Nate (Dylan McDermott), and Nates wife Laurel (Maura Tierney).
Have a taste. Have two tastes:
GORDON: (to Hal, who has decided to write a novel): Hows it going?
HAL (at his computer): Its going.
GORDON: Hmmm. So. Tell me. Am I in it?
HAL: After a fashion.
GORDON: What does that mean?
HAL: It means in a manner of speaking.
GORDON: I know that. Im not stupid
I mean, am I in it or not?
HAL: Im trying to work.
GORDON: Too bad. Im bored.
HAL: Read a book.
GORDON: I hate books
HAL: The character Im writing is based on you, loosely based on you. Ive taken some of your qualities and added attributes from my own imagination.
GORDON: What kind of attributes?
HAL: Well, for instance. Hes kind.
GORDON: Im kind
HAL: Gordon, please. Kind people do not commit murder.
In point of fact, Hal himself almost commits murder, strangling brother Nate close to death with Nates own necktie. Both Hal and Gordon forthwith take over the premises and make moves on Laurel. So you might say this is Joe Ortons Entertaining Mr. Sloane times two. In fact times three, because good square Nate himself has had a little piece on the side, a Clinique-counter Bloomingdales cupcake named Steffi (Aya Cash), whom he dumps without further ado, writing her off as collateral damage.
Yeah, Gordon is very Ortonesque, says Brian J. (for Jacob) Smith as he cools out in his dressing room at Playwrights Horizons. Weve actually talked a lot about Orton in rehearsals, and about Jean Genet and Alex in A Clockwork Orange.
When did your father start hitting you? novelist Hal asks the runaway rich boy. He never hit me. He took away my credit cards, Gordon replies, in the one funniest, saddest line in the play. Its very Nicky Silver, says the actor who will speak that line. Ive loved Nickys plays since college.
When Brian Smith says college he means Juilliard. Unlike prep-school product Gordon, Brian came out of just a public high school in Allen, Texas, 20 miles north of Dallas but I knew preppies, and he played another very privileged kid in Roberto Aguirre-Sarcasas Good Boys and True at Second Stage earlier this summer. He had even before that reached Broadway as Turk, the javelin thrower, in the revival of William Inges Come Back, Little Sheba.
The actor, oldest of three brothers, categorizes his background as very middle-class suburban. Their father coordinates all the events at a convention center, their mother teaches nursing school.
If you ask him about Dallass Dealy Plaza, it draws a blank. Then, when the light goes on: Oh! Yeah! We call it The Grassy Knoll.
He was born in that city on October 12, 1981. Growing up was, well, growing up. I didnt really do anything much in high school. I was very lost in high school.
Nor has life been all that easy in New York City. Auditions, auditions, auditions even to get into Juilliard (he used a monologue from Nicky Silvers The Eros Trilogy).
Can he sense what its like to sleep, like Gordon, on the streets?
Yeah. Im going through it right now. Almost been evicted from my Washington Heights apartment three times. I think Im the only actor in New York who hasnt been on Law and Order.
But he has been in a couple of movies, one of which is Ron Danielss The War Boys a lovely film that [for want of a distributor] will never be seen. Smith plays a working-class guy who chases illegal Mexicans back over the border. I guess you could call him a homosexual racist. In contradiction of everything.
The other movie is Elizabeth Lucas Red Hook, summed up by Smith in three words: A horror film.
So, Brian, back to the Gordon of Three Changes. Hes not a very nice guy, is he?
No, hes not not at all. Hes a mess of contradictions. A person who, to get love, makes himself as unlovable as possible. You know, its risky. We all want to be liked. If you dont want to strangle me during curtain call, I havent done my job.
Trouble is, he doesnt wear a necktie to strangle him with.
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