Aidan Redmond may not be a household name, but the steadily working actor boasts an impressive list of credits. Since graduating from the Samuel Beckett Centre at Trinity College Dublin, the Irishman has been performing in both his native land and the United States. In 2014, he made his Broadway debut in Martin McDonagh‘s The Cripple of Inishman with Daniel Ratcliffe.
Currently, he can be spotted at Chelsea’s Irish Repertory Theatre in Two By Friel. The evening, directed by Conor Bagley, is comprised of two plays by the late, acclaimed playwright Brian Friel. In Lovers: Winners, Redmond–along with his co-star Jenny Leona— narrate the story of a budding romance between teenagers.
Act II’s The Yalta Game provides juicier fare for Redmond as he portrays a suave Russian philologist who attempts to cast his charm on a young lady (Leona) in the famed Crimean resort town. Both Redmond–and the production–have received raves from The New York Times, TimeOut NY, and The New Yorker.
Recently, Manhattan Digest had a phone conversation with the County Meath born gentleman about the show and his appreciation for the craft of acting.
MD: Is this the first Friel play you’ve done?
AR: It is, though I’m sure every Irish actor has had something from Philadelphia, Here I Come in his monologue tool bag at some point, this is my first production
MD: How did you come to the project?
AR: I was touring a production of Marina Carr’s The Mai in Ireland. Conor and I had a Skype audition and then a callback with Conor, Jenny and Charlotte Moore, the founder and Artistic Director. I got cast and that was that. I came back from Ireland and got started on this.
MD: In the first play, you’re onstage much of the time doing absolutely nothing. Does your mind start to wonder to what you’ll have for dinner or getting your electric bill paid?
AR: As Friel has written them–in the first play, Lovers: Winners, the two narrators are known as man and woman. Conor has replaced these characters with Dmitry and Anna from the second play, The Yalta Game. So, the book you see Anna throwing down at the end of Act I is the same book you see Dmitry pick up at the top of the act. Essentially, we’re reading from the same book. When Anna steps out of the chair and throws the book down at the end of Act I it is repeated at the end of Act II when we see Dmitry re-appear and they kiss. There’s a lot of things going on to keep me engaged but it ain’t easy!
MD: This is the first time that these two pieces have been paired, correct?
AR: Yes. Conor has embellished the themes between the two. How well it works is up to the audience.
MD: Do you see these as more of a cautionary tale or just as a slice of life?
AR: Both plays deal with our perception of our lives and what we do within them. Then there is a contrast of life’s perception of us. In the first play, the narrators speak for society and in the second, the audience is judge and jury. They get to hear our explanations of why we’ve made the choices we have. I’m finding that the more we perform it, the more apparent those complexities become.
MD: Did you read and study the original source material for The Yalta Game, Chekhov’s Lady and the Lapdog?
AR: Yes. It certainly informed the characters. It’s important to know who these characters are within the context of their time. The designers have attempted to convey a timeless quality to our production of The Yalta Game. We don’t specifically refer to the 1870s but you have to pay attention to the script and source material. The Russian aristocracy frequented Yalta until Lenin came along and declared that the proletariat should have the same access.
MD: There is so much Irish Drama that focuses on depression and/or drinking, but Friel really finds many more interesting aspects.
AR: He does. He finds the humanity. I think that is why he’s compared to Chekhov. He has an innate understanding of people and why they are the way they are. He examines the condition of being human. It’s good stuff-and it’s funny stuff. Maybe it’s a defense or coping mechanism to power through life, but as Irish people, we’ve developed a great sense of humor. He taps that in the rhythm of the language. Sometimes I think Irish audiences can tap into it immediately, but for American audiences, it can take the ear a little while to adjust.
MD: This may sound like heresy, but I find Friel much more interesting than Chekhov. A lot of Chekhov is a bunch of bitching and whining with no one wanting to change anything about themselves. There’s a lot more introspection in Friel’s characters.
AR: I think when you read the Chekhov version of The Yalta Game and then you see what Friel has done with that, it’s fantastic how he has filled in all those gaps. As far as I know, Friel wrote The Yalta Game after time he spent living in Chekhov’s house in Yalta.
MD: You’re such an actor of range. You’ve played working class types and also suave, rich gigolo types. Do you have a preference in roles?
AR: Not really. I just do what I’m told (laughs). I don’t know. I like to do them all. I connect to things that make me laugh and like to recognize something in characters that make me want to know more about them.
MD: Do you find yourself being typecast into certain roles?
AR: Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of great stories that examine love. One thing I love about theater is that it allows you to play a variety of roles. You can have a good exploration into the world of a character. Acting is a great teacher of life. It makes you more empathetic, patient, less judgmental, and all those things that we should strive for. There is so much to be learned about the resilience of the human condition. Life improves upon love. There is a sense of hope in both of these works that suggest that no matter what life throws at us, we have to seize the moment.
MD: That’s a solid life lesson. Thanks for chatting. Have a great run!
Two By Friel. Now playing at Irish Repertory Theater (132 West 22nd Street NYC) through December 23rd. For tickets and information, visit https://irishrep.org/show/2018-2019-season/two-by-friel/