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Richard Bean's One Man, Two Guvnors won Corden a Tony. What will his new comedy do for Max Gordon Moore?
Richard Bean's new Broadway romp The Nap at Manhattan Theatre Club is set in the world of British snooker -- it's like pool, but with more math. A major televised attraction in the U.K., the sport makes rock stars of its champions; it's also a vehicle for young working-class men to transcend their bleak surroundings. That's the case for Dylan Spokes (Ben Schnetzer), a fast-rising prodigy who finds himself unwittingly entangled in a betting scandal involving a coterie of colorful opportunists.
Max Gordon Moore takes on two characters in The Nap: the tournament emcee, a role that is mostly improved, and Tony DanLino, the young snooker wiz's oily agent. DanLino's penchant for lurid pastel suits tells you pretty much everything you need to know about him. "They're Topman, which is British," says Moore of the off-the-rack ensembles. "The costume designers also brought in some Spanish-made suits. The difference is, there is no room for pectoral muscles in Topman suits, so they were much better for me."
What Moore lacks in physique he recoups in comic heft. As DanLino he leers lasciviously, skitters across the floor during a guessing game, fakes cellphone calls and nails other bits of adorably insincere agent business. "He is not a good manager," laughs Moore, who based the character on the braggarts he encountered in pubs while attending the British American Drama Academy in London. "It's not that he's all hat and no cattle -- but his hat-to-cattle ratio is way off. It seems to be a Richard Bean truism that all of his characters can find their way to very stupid within 30 seconds. DanLino gets there quite quickly. He's always two seconds away from not knowing anything."
An ingenious plot twist in Act II delivers a break shot to the plot and the cast scrambles. The final scene is a live onstage game of snooker. Anything can happen during the match, and Moore has to improv his way through his second role as a mellifluous TV announcer. "I comfort myself by remembering that I don't have to actually play the game," he jokes.
Moore grew up in Seattle, where his father is an actor on the local theatre scene. He enrolled at Sarah Lawrence College to pursue playwriting but switched to acting, studying in England, working in San Francisco and eventually earning an MFA from Yale School of Drama.
Since graduating in 2011, he's been based in New York City, appearing in featherweight comedy (Relatively Speaking, his Broadway debut) and freighted drama (the Condola Rashad-led Saint Joan this past spring). His breakout role was playing Polish-Jewish writer Sholem Asch in Paula Vogel's Indecent both at the Vineyard Theatre and on Broadway. "I split my time between playing Jews and Brits, basically," says Moore.
Did portraying the controversial playwright whose drama God of Vengeance was shut down on Broadway in 1923 due to charges of indecency change Moore's career? "It certainly transformed me," he says. "What it did for my career, I'm still figuring that out. But Indecent's affected people -- Jews, gentiles, all around -- more than anything I've ever done. And my wife and I had our baby daughter a week before rehearsals started. So it was a highly familial and highly religious experience."
After coming off a series of intense productions, The Nap has been a joyful change of pace. "I always wanted to take a crack at a British play and I was always hoping that the theatres in New York would choose to save money and not cast an actual Brit," says Moore. "There's something very particular about the way they make fun of their own culture. Even their low comedy is just a little different than ours. It's so fun to do. I just find that it has lots and lots of opportunities. It's opportunity dense!"
Top image: Ben Schnetzer and Max Gordon Moore in The Nap. Photos by Joan Marcus.