From a confused, working-class guy in Neil LaBute's reasons to be pretty to the smart-ass comic Touchstone in As You Like It to an energetic reality-TV producer caught between sister and parents in Other Desert Cities, Thomas Sadoski has been on quite a ride the past two-and-a-half years. The journeys he's gone on with these roles have not only been actorly; earlier this year, he took Touchstone, and Stephano in The Tempest, all over the world as part of the Bridge Project, the annual Anglo-American company that director Sam Mendes has been assembling to showcase top talent.
"I didn't want to do the Bridge at first," Sadoski said the other day in hisOther Desert Cities dressing room. "But Sam convinced me, and I'm glad he did. Working with him was extraordinary." He continued: "And being able to spend April in Paris wasn't bad, either." (Nor was the roar of French audience: on opening night, As You Like It received seven curtain calls.)
Sadoski, who grew up mostly in College Station, Texas, where his father taught at Texas A & M, has experienced other brands of acclaim: a Tony nomination for the LaBute play, for instance. Few things, however, have meant as much as the compliments that Paul Newman gave him after a Broadway performance of Craig Lucas's Reckless, in which Sadoski played opposite Mary-Louise Parker.
"I so look up to Paul Newman," Sadoski said. He has a photo of the icon on his LCT dressing-room mirror, near those of Charlie Chaplin and Daniel Day-Lewis. "He was a star who managed to remain a true actor his whole life. That's inspiring."
Another influence for Sadoski: Mark Ruffalo, whom he understudied off-Broadway in 1998 in Kenneth Lonergan's This Is Our Youth, the production that gained Sadoski his Actors Equity card. "Mark was a kind of mentor to me. He would talk to me a lot about his working process, which was very helpful to me at that time."
Sadoski is equally grateful for his costars in Other Desert Cities - Stacy Keach, Linda Lavin, Stockard Channing, and Elizabeth Marvel. "When you work with people of this caliber," Sadoski said, "it makes it much easier to be in the moment of the performance, rather than obsessing about what it is that you alone are trying to achieve. When Linda enters and flashes me a smile, or when Stockard gives me a certain look, I have a lot to play off - and to feed on."
As for his character Trip Wyeth, in Other Desert Cities, Sadoski said: "He has learned to be happy in order to survive. At some point growing up with dominant parents and a highly emotional sister, he must have asked himself, 'What is my function in this family?' And he concluded, 'I'm here to love everybody.'"
Sadoski said that Trip also functions as the character whose emotional allegiance is most up for grabs. "I think that in an earlier draft of the play that Robbie" - the playwright Jon Robin Baitz - "had written the character as the boyfriend of Liz's character." (That would be Brooke Wyeth, played by Marvel.) "But the story is strengthened by having a brother rather than a boyfriend -- someone who is not firmly allied in one camp or the other."
As Sadoski made this comment I couldn't help but think of what I thought of his work before our interview started: he is someone who doesn't stand firmly in one place or another, but whose gift allows him to inhabit the space required. That's a kind of grace, really.
Brendan Lemon is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com.