As Guthrie McClintic, the theater director and husband of Katherine Cornell in The Grand Manner, Boyd Gaines has a memorable entrance line. How memorable? Can't say, because in an interview the other day, Gaines asked me not to give it away. So I won't; but I will reveal that in the A.R. Gurney's script, just before the line, the character is described as "a small, dapper man."
Gaines denies any designs on dapperness. Referring to the production's costume designer, he said: "That will be Ann Hould-Ward's assignment." Gaines also points out, rightly, that he is not height-challenged. "I'm not a giant, but I'm definitely not small."
In the theater world, however, Gaines, who was born in Atlanta and went to Juilliard, looms like Godzilla. In terms of the Tonys, he was the first person to be nominated for all four performance awards (leading and featured in musicals, leading and featured in plays), and he has won more Tonys (four) than any male actor. (For The Heidi Chronicles, She Loves Me, Contact, andGypsy.)
Contact, of course, was done at LCT: initially in the Mitzi Newhouse Theater, then upstairs for a long run in the Beaumont. "I know and love the Mitzi," Gaines says, "and I'm happy to be back there."
Contact and Grand Manner would appear to have no other similarities for Gaines. Not true: "With Contact I didn't appear until the top of the second act, and with The Grand Manner I don't again appear until halfway through."
Further: "In Contact I wore a tuxedo, and in The Grand Manner I wear a tuxedo. It seems to be written into my Lincoln Center Theater contract: 'Boyd Gaines must wear a tuxedo.'"
If Gaines can inject effervescence into the subject of his LCT attire, he sobers up a little when it comes to the topic of his midway entrances.
"It can be anxiety-producing to have a late entrance," Gaines says. "And I'm prone to performance anxiety. Usually, I develop a routine or ritual for getting myself ready. When I go on halfway in, I simply start the routine later."
Gaines said that any jitters are allayed by the steady hand, in The Grand Manner, of his director, Mark Lamos, and by the presence of fellow cast members: Kate Burton, Bobby Steggert, and Brenda Wehle.
"Years ago," Gaines said, "there was a production of A Month in the Countrydone at the McCarter, in Princeton. Mark was in the cast. He had started to pursue directing by then, and by the time the production came to New York, he had left the show and I was cast in the role that he played. It was my first Equity job."
As for The Grand Manner actors: "I've known Kate for years. We met while I was still at Juilliard and she was at Brown. We worked on a TV miniseries, 'Evergreen,' around the time of the death of her father" - Richard Burton. "We played brother and sister. We also did Company together at the Roundabout."
Also at the Roundabout, Gaines worked with Wehle on Pygmalion in 2007. And as for Steggert? "I feel as if I've worked with him already. He has the enthusiasm of a neophyte but he's wise beyond his years."
BRENDAN LEMON is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com.