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Another Kind

Date: Jan 29, 2009


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For an actor, genetics can be destiny: Big guys get typecast as heavies and gentle giants, petite women find themselves playing vulnerable damsels ad nauseam. But by its very nature, acting aspires to break the mold and free the imagination, and Richard Kind—whose outsized frame and expressive, laughing face gets him cast as larger-than-life figures more often than not—is no exception.

Which is at least one reason he embraced the opportunity presented by Flyovers, a new play by Jeffrey Sweet, now running at 78th Street Theatre Lab (a theatre that gladly accepts TDF vouchers).

“It’s a lot more naturalistic than what I usually do,” says Kind, who may be best known to TV viewers for roles on Spin City and Mad About You but who has been a versatile stage actor since matriculating from Chicago’s Second City decades ago. And though Kind still does his share of TV and film, he’s no stranger to the boards.

“Last year I did six plays in 13 months,” he says. “And it seemed like each play was a bit stylized. I did The Front Page at Williamstown; I played a Nazi in Charles Busch’s The Lady in Question. I did Candide, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Damn Yankees. Probably the most naturalistic thing I did was Adam Baum and the Jew Movie in L.A.—that was the closest to how people act in real life.”

In Flyovers, Kind plays a renowned film critic with a “Sneak Previews”-like TV show who returns to the small Ohio town where he grew up for a 25th high school reunion. But the fish-out-of-water, red-state-vs.-blue-state culture-war dynamic is “just one aspect of it,” Kind says. “It’s also about a guy going home and confronting the man who used to torment him in school.”

But while the play certainly includes comic elements, “I wouldn’t really call it a comedy,” says Kind. “This guy is an everyday Joe. It’s something I don’t get to do that often.”

Is it easier to play realistic behavior, or to go over the top?

“I don’t think it’s necessarily easier—they’re all tough unless you have a handle on them,” Kind says.

Working in an intimate theatre with fewer than 100 seats is something Kind has done before, including in Los Angeles (which is where he did Adam Baum, as well as a star-studded small-theatre production of The Seagull directed by Milton Katselas). The remuneration is negligible, and it is pilot season—a potentially busy time for film/TV actors—but Kind says he couldn’t pass up the chance to work on Sweet’s “terrific, smart play,” which premiered in Chicago in 1998 with William Peterson (CSI) and Amy Morton (August: Osage County) in the cast.

The stellar cast here was also a factor in Kind’s decision: It includes Michelle Pawk (Crazy for You, Hello Again), Kevin Geer (Side Man, Unconditional) and Donna Bullock (A Class Act, Ragtime).

“When the room is this small, you can keep it small, like you’re in front of a camera,” says Kind. That’s an upside. The downside: “This is a vacation. This is something I shouldn’t be doing. I’ve got children’s mouths to feed! But I’m doing this for the purity of it.”

One stage role he did for both the art and the commerce was that Addison Mizner in Bounce, the Stephen Sondheim/John Weidman musical that played in Chicago and D.C. before getting a complete makeover and resurfacing a few months ago at the Public Theatre with a new title, Road Show, a new director, John Doyle, and a much, much darker tone.

“I thought it was terrific,” says Kind of Road Show. “I feel like this one should have been called Bounce, though, because it showed how those guys just bounced around from place to place, and no roots were put down along the way. I have my thoughts about things that could have been done differently, but I thought John Doyle did a fantastic job. I know John and Steve were very pleased with it.”

Bouncing buoyantly from role to role, Richard Kind is the kind of talent we expect to be seeing playing parts of all sizes for many moons to come.

Click here for more information on FLYOVERS.