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The TV star plays three different characters in One November Yankee
Harry Hamlin initially starred in One November Yankee seven years ago, but he admits he was not writer-director Joshua Ravetch's first choice. Back in 2012, Ravetch had hoped to entice his friend, the late Robert Forster, to headline the play's world premiere in Los Angeles. The Oscar nominee was unavailable, but he recommended Ravetch reach out to Hamlin since they'd worked together previously and Forster thought the actor would be a good fit for the project. "Josh tried to find me, but my agent was very reluctant to send the play along," Hamlin says. "He finally sent it to me on a Friday evening with no explanation whatsoever. My social life must have been really bad at the time because I read it immediately!"
Hamlin was so impressed with the script that he wanted to talk to Ravetch right away, but couldn't get a hold of his own agent. So he turned to the internet for help, tracking down Ravetch via LinkedIn. "I messaged him and said, 'Are you the same guy that wrote One November Yankee?'" Hamlin recalls. "Then I went over to his house that weekend." Eight days later, Hamlin was on stage opposite M*A*S*H's Loretta Swit in the two-hander at L.A.'s NoHo Arts Center.
Although Hamlin may be best known for his film and TV work—a hunky demigod in the original Clash of the Titans, a hotshot attorney on L.A. Law, a straight-talking exec on Mad Men—he trained as a stage actor at Yale, and earned his MFA at San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre. Throughout his career, he's done regional theatre as well as three shows on Broadway, notably a 2007 stint as slippery lawyer Billy Flynn in Chicago opposite his real-life wife Lisa Rinna as Roxy Hart. "My first love has always been the theatre," he says.
One November Yankee, currently having its New York premiere at 59E59 Theaters, marks his return to the NYC stage after 12 years. This time around, Stefanie Powers (of Hart to Hart fame) is his costar, and he says he's grateful to be doing the piece again because "I love this play." A trio of tales about three different sets of siblings linked across time and space by a small airplane crash, One November Yankee offers six juicy parts for two actors as these disparate brothers and sisters bicker and bond, sometimes hilariously, often poignantly.
The duo performed the show at Wilmington's Delaware Theatre Company briefly earlier this fall before bringing it Off Broadway. "New York audiences are very sophisticated," Hamlin says. "They're coming right along with the play—we can hear that. It goes by unbelievably fast for us on stage. We start and, before you know it, we're in the dressing room. There's not a moment to breathe, racing from one scene to the next."
Hamlin says Ravetch has made some updates to the script since the L.A. production because "a lot's happened in the world since then. The play actually seems more relevant now because of what's going on in our political lives. I think it also works better here in New York; it has more of an Eastern mentality."
In addition to the exciting challenge of playing three wildly different characters in just 95 intermissionless minutes, Hamlin appreciates that the show celebrates the importance of staying connected to family—even when they drive you crazy. For two decades, the actor made sure never to be away from his two daughters for more than 10 days at a time. "My priority was to put the kids to bed every night," he says. "Now they're gone, so I can travel the world. I can go on location to do movies, I can come to New York and do theatre. I never lost the itch."
Regina Robbins is a writer, director, native New Yorker and Jeopardy! champion. She has worked with several NYC-based theatre companies and is currently a Core Company Member with Everyday Inferno Theatre.
Top image: Harry Hamlin and Stefanie Powers in One November Yankee. Photos by Matt Urban at NüPOINT Marketing.
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