When Brian Hutchison and I decided to do our interview this week in LCT’s downstairs Shiki Room after a matinee of How To Transcend a Happy Marriage, I had no idea of the space’s significance in his career. Hutchison, who plays Michael in Sarah Ruhl’s play, said, “I auditioned for The Invention of Love in this room. I got the job and it was my first professional gig in New York.”
Hutchison was referring to the 2001 LCT production of a Tom Stoppard play, directed by Jack O’Brien. Hutchison had done his acting training at the Old Globe/University of San Diego, when O’Brien was the Old Globe’s artistic director. “By casting me in The Invention of Love Jack gave me a huge gift early in my career,” Hutchison said. “Immediately after that, I got another job on Broadway, in Proof. It was a great way to begin life in New York.”
Proof is about mathematics, Invention is about love. Both topics figure heavily in the Ruhl play, with its lively talk of Pythagoras as well as of sex and relationships. Michael, Hutchison’s character, is described in the script as “sensitive.” “That means,” Hutchison said, “that he is intelligent, sympathetic, aware, compassionate.” Michael is also a musician. “He is living an artistic life in the suburbs,” Hutchison explained. “In order to contribute to his family’s support, he writes jingles. But he also plays in a band.”
Hutchison himself played in a band during his early days as an actor in New York. “But I was doing quite of bit of regional theater then,” he said, “so eventually I stopped. But I know what it’s like for someone like Michael to crave the camaraderie that a band provides.”
Hutchison, whose Broadway credits include Looped, a play about Talullah Bankhead that starred Valerie Harper, and Terrence Rattigan’s Man and Boy, with Frank Langella, comes from Pittsburgh. “The steel mills there were closing when I grew up. It was a hard time for many people.” The city has transformed itself into an attractive, tech-and-arts-friendly place able to lure back many of its former citizens. “I’m a big fan of the city, and my father still lives there, but I don’t get back as often as I’d like.”
Hutchison said his parents were not artistically inclined but were nonetheless supportive of him and his brother Chris, who is also a professional performer, currently part of the acting company at the Alley Theater, in Houston. “My brother is only a little older than I am,” Hutchison said, “but having him go first gave me some permission to be an actor, too.”
Hutchison is grateful to have done many new plays in his career, and he counts the Ruhl piece as a highlight. “I’d seen a few of Sarah’s plays – the Vibrator Play, Stage Kiss – and have always found her an amazing writer.” He continued: “When I first read the current play, I hoped people would find it as funny and incredibly moving as I have.” And they have. “There has been a real give-and-take between us actors and the audiences. That has made the play really enjoyable to perform every night.”
Brendan Lemon is the editor of lemonwade.com.