I’m asking actors and designers to name five dream roles/projects and say why. The answers not only reveal aspirations — they may put an idea in the minds of artistic directors and producers — even choices that seem outside the box.
“I had a lot of fun mulching around in this thought experiment," says Jason Heil. "I felt like Henry in The Real Thing searching for his desert island discs. You want to pick roles that entice and scare you. You want to cover different flavors. You don’t want to look like an idiot. I did notice a recurring theme of men who practice deception, often hiding truths from themselves. Also a balance of intelligence and gut.
"Sweeney Todd in Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, by Stephen Sondheim. “The music and lyrics just reach into your soul. I would be fascinated to poke around in such a deep loss that stokes such hate and savagery. Wickedly funny and tragic. Tough to find that combo executed so brilliantly.
"Pastor Greg in Hand to God, by Robert Askins. “Talk about pitch-black comedy...Satan. Puppet sex. I love humor that is cringe-inducing. The comedy in this piece is scary/tricky, which calls to me. Pastor Greg is a delicious manifestation of the “Man” biting off more than he can chew. And it’s &%!#’n funny.
"Joe Keller in All My Sons, by Arthur Miller. “Having grown up in a small town in Ohio, this Miller play has always spoken to me on a visceral level. I know these people. I know this town. Joe thinks his lies are justified. But it is a fragile house of cards that he has built. Miller deftly explores family and honor.
"Rev. Morell in A Minister’s Wife, music by Jonathan Schmidt; lyrics, Jan Levy Tranan; book, Austin Pendleton. Combining two of my favorites [Shaw and musicals] this chamber piece of Shaw’s Candida is a battle of wits and battle of the sexes. James thinks he understands his faith, his wife, and his place in the world. Wrong. A tricky, raw exploration of love and faith and self.
"Cyrano, Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmund Rostand. My favorite play can appeal to classical theater scholars as well as an 11-year-old kid (which I was when I first saw it) who loves swashbuckling and romance. As an actor (and a person) I relate to someone who finds wonderful successes from his very real gifts, while at the same time, never fully grasping his brass ring due to his very real faults. The language is gorgeous and intelligent. I played Christian earlier in my career. Playing Cyrano would simultaneously terrify me and make me giddy as a little kid. Poetry? Swordfights? Romance? The nose? I mean, come on!”