For those savvy about theater, film and the premiere offerings of television, here’s a short quiz: These three actors have all appeared on the Bay Street Theatre stage, are members of its Board of Trustees AND—six degrees of separation—have been part of the entertainment icon HBO.
A. He lives in Sag Harbor, starred in “The Wire,” the most exceptional dramatic television series ever, as an overworked, shady union shipyard boss on the gritty docks of Baltimore, who now stars in “True Blood,” one of HBO’s highest-rated series set in the fictional, vampire-ridden town of Bon Temps, Louisiana.
B. She lives in Springs, is married to an acclaimed artist, is an Academy and Tony Award-winning actor, who will be seen in the highly anticipated HBO series about the world of horse racing, “Luck,” and played Angelina Jolie’s mother in the HBO film Gia and plays the mother of Vincent and Drama Chase in HBO’s “Entourage.” [expand]
C. Among his exhaustive list of credits, he shared a stage with (a) last summer at Bay Street in David Mamet’s Romance (his third Bay Street appearance) and met (b) last week in Los Angeles on the set of the forthcoming HBO series “Luck,” in which he plays a jockey’s agent, his best friend is George Clooney, and he has a recurring featured role on Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” another HBO hit.
And they are: a) Chris Bauer, b) Mercedes Ruehl and c) Richard Kind, who doesn’t live in the Hamptons, “but I love the Hamptons,” he said in a phone interview at 5 a.m. Chicago time on a Saturday as he was being driven to the airport.
All three will be hosting the Bay Street’s annual Rock the Dock summer benefit gala on Saturday, July 16, at 6:30 p.m. on the Long Wharf, at which there will be cocktails, dinner, dancing, a live auction and time to get to know these three personable, incredibly talented actors and friends of Bay Street.
Kind must have had at least one cup of coffee and this reporter detected the sound of a toasted bagel being eaten over the phone, because he was shockingly wide awake, “When I’m in Sag Harbor, I love going to Montauk, but I happen to be someone who doesn’t like to vacation, I’m sure I’d be healthier if I could, so being in a play at Bay Street is perfect, I can go to the beach with the kids and do all that beach stuff, but I get to work, I like to be productive. Oh! I was a singing waiter for two summers in Westhampton Beach. It was that restaurant catty corner to the post office. I’m a Jersey Shore kid; it’s not the Hamptons. But I just love the Bay Street Theatre and Sag Harbor. It’s like a paid vacation. Doing the play is my reward.”
I asked Bauer about his memories working with Kind in Mamet’s Romance last summer. “When you do a play with Richard, it’s impossible to single out one memory. The man’s the ultimate memory-maker. He’s so vivid and animated and a thrill to perform with.”
Kind remembers standing with Bauer in the wings before they went on stage, “break a leg, and off we’d go,” and “Chris was stone-faced in the play, and I’d get the giggles because I was a judge and I had to be so sincere, so intent, but my character was going crazy, seeing things, it was so ridiculous and amazing.”
“My lasting impression of being in Romance,” Bauer said, was the “generosity, intelligence, tolerance and good humor of our Bay Street audience. That play was not easy to swallow, but was impeccably written and very relevant. It was a joy to do it for such trusting, supportive folks.”
When Ruehl took on the role of Paige in Moira Buffini’s Dinner at the theater in 2009, she relished playing a “posh bitch protagonist” hosting a dinner party in a classic “gothic revenge drama.” But Ruehl, the consummate artist, brought more to the table. She has an uncanny, intuitive way of giving the audience glimpses of the ache underneath the comedy, the shaky fear underneath the armor. Paige “is a woman on the serious verge of something. Not a nervous breakdown, it’s more contained. Her mordant humor comes out of a very dark place—her humor is desperate,” Ruehl said.
About his gala co-hosts, Kind and Ruehl, Bauer said, “Those two are brilliant actors. Don’t they have some awards? I’m a blue-collar grunt who can count the hairs on his head. I’m just glad they’re letting me tag along.”
If Bauer weren’t so busy playing a sheriff whose town is populated with vampires, werewolves and witches, he just might qualify as a walking/talking Sag Harbor Booster. “Waking up early in the morning and being alive is my favorite thing to do in Sag Harbor. The entire place is aesthetic bliss, filled with remarkable people to share with. I’m so grateful for every second I can spend there. No matter where I buy a cup of coffee, there’s always someone to say hello to.”
And all three have such irrepressible affection for the Bay Street Theatre. “It doesn’t get any better,” Kind said. “They don’t do fluff—Mame, Hello Dolly—they pick challenging, unexpected works.” Beginning August 9, Kind will appear there in Enter Laughing, a musical with a book by Joseph Stein and music and lyrics by Stuart Daniels. Directed by Stuart Ross, Kind is playing a supporting role, “a good role, an important role,” but the real star is Josh Grisetti, Kind said. “It’s a star-making role, he’s such a funny actor, a great singer, so talented in every area, unbelievable.”
According to Kind, the York Theater in the city launched a revival of Enter Laughing that knocked critics on their socks. “The play is genius, and I mean genius at being what it is. It’s not a huge, enormous diamond. It’s a nice diamond set off with two sapphires. Stunning perfection, a gem of a show. Charming, fun and smart. I LOVE this play.”
When I asked Bauer if he had any plans to appear onstage at Bay Street again, he was quick to say, “ASAP is too slow. I can’t wait to work again, if Murphy and Sybil will have me. I’m shooting for next summer to be back on that stage.”
“I have had many extraordinary experiences on the Bay Street stage,” said Ruehl, “and I’m excited to become a part of the family that shapes and directs the course of this unique and valuable theater.”
Bauer’s wears his sincerity on his sleeve when he talks about Bay Street. “Pop into the lobby, check out the photos on the wall and see some of the men and women who have been on that stage. They’re legends,” he said. All year-round Bay Street is a portal to sophisticated, intelligent entertainment, Bauer added. “I walk in that space on the Wharf and I get that feeling I got when I entered my first theater ever, the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, as a kid: Anything is possible here.”
Tickets can be had for Rock the Dock by calling 631-725-0818 or sending an e-mail to [email protected]. [/expand]