What do we know about Ames, the character played by Jonathan Hadary in Brian Watkins’ Epiphany, now in the Newhouse? “The main thing we know about Ames,” said Hadary in a recent interview, “is that he’s an old friend of Morkan, who has assembled nine people for a dinner. We also know that Ames is aloof, that he’s always lived alone, and he’s a manic, artistic sort of soul. Not much happens in the play, but what does happens tends to happen to Ames.”

I asked Hadary, whose previous LCT credits include Odets’ Golden Boy and Awake and Sing! on Broadway, and Jules Feiffer’s A Bad Friend in the Newhouse, how he approaches a character who is given little specific description in the text. “My inclination,” Hadary responded, “is to fill in just enough backstory for myself. What Ames wears is a help to playing him. It so happens that he dresses quite a bit like I do. He wears a vest, for example, and the vest is buttoned-up. Because Ames is quite prim.”

In his long career as a theater actor, Hadary has played some roles that are un-prim: early ones include Arnold in Torch Song Trilogy, Saul in As Is, Herschel in Gemini. “I’ve been lucky in the range of people that I’ve been able to portray. But my current assignment isn’t really like any of them.”

Part of the uniqueness of Epiphany, Hadary continued, “is the demands it places on all of the actors to listen. You can’t zone out during this evening, which is one long scene with no black-outs or breaks. If your mind drifts for only a second or two you may miss your cue. Or you may not be listening in a way that’s realistic. Plus in this play we stand a lot: listening and standing are draining.”

Before the pandemic, Hadary did a reading of Epiphany at LCT with Marylouise Burke, who plays Morkan. “One of the things that struck me from the very first,” Hadary said, “and that has stayed with me, is the extent to which all the characters go to make others feel comfortable. That’s a skill that’s essential to social interaction and that we lost a little during the pandemic when large-scale gatherings were off-limits. It’s extraordinary how Brian Watkins, before the pandemic, captured our deep need to have the ritual of getting together and how much it resonates even more today in 2022.”

Had Hadary and Burke worked together previously? “She and I have been in New York almost the exact same length of time – 47 years – and yet we’d never met. But we have many people in common. She’s a treasure and easy to like.”

And the others in the cast? “We’re having such a great time backstage,” Hadary replied. “I think we’ve all missed the camaraderie of doing a show together every night.” Does he still enjoy doing theater as much as he did when he was a performer fresh to New York in the 1970s? “I do,” he replied. “Whether you’re young or old, getting on a stage six days a week takes a lot out of you. But I love it. It’s been my life.”

Brendan Lemon is the editor of lemonwade.com