NEW YORK: Stephen Spinella's double life is about to get complicated, thanks to some new facial hair.
The two-time Tony Award-winner is starring on Broadway in "The Velocity of Autumn" and also moonlighting on TV in "Royal Pains." But to play the stage role, he's grown a soul patch and a mustache.
That might make the folks at USA Network fret. On their show, Spinella plays a clean-shaven, fastidious auction house curator. "I don't know if they know I have this," said Spinella, stroking his whiskers.
"I play a very sophisticated art dealer - who has now grown a mustache and a soul patch," he added. "The writers are incredibly witty. I'm sure they'll reference something."
Spinella has been keeping people on their toes like that throughout his rich, busy career.
He starred in the original groundbreaking Broadway production of "Angels in America" as well as "Spring Awakening" and "Our Town" with Paul Newman. On TV, he's been in "24," ''Desperate Housewives" and "Alias." For the screen, Spinella had roles in "Lincoln" and "Milk."
Now he's sharing a stage with Estelle Parsons in the two-person play "The Velocity of Autumn," which opens Monday at the Booth Theatre after a successful stop in Washington, D.C.
Spinella plays an elderly woman's estranged son who reconnects after she barricades herself in her home. She's worried her kids want to put her in a nursing home and is armed with enough Molotov cocktails to take out the block. For the role, Spinella wears a ponytail, as well as his new facial hair, to show he's a bit of a dreamer and a wanderer.
Spinella recently sat down with The Associated Press to talk about his explosive new play, his hair and working with Paul Newman.
AP: What's this play like?
Spinella: It's very spare. Everything is insinuated. The full story has to be filled in by the actors and the audience. It's like the silt at the bottom of the river. It just lays there nicely unless you disturb it. This work disturbs things.
AP: Has this gotten very personal for you?
Spinella: It's hard for me right now because my mother passed away in October while I was doing this. In some ways, I was able to deal with that in a really constructive way because I have this project that I can actually siphon it into.
AP: Tell me about the booby-traps in the house. What's in those jars all over the stage?
Spinella: Developing fluid, and it turns out developing fluid isn't flammable. So they both are operating under the assumption that it's this incredibly flammable substance and it isn't at all. It's this completely unspoken joke. I just went on the Internet to find out.
AP: Have you raised this with the playwright, Eric Coble?
Spinella: No. My assumption is that he knows and it's a joke. I don't want to question it. In a way, if he doesn't know it's an even better joke.
AP: You wear a wig here. Have you ever had a ponytail in real life?
Spinella: No. I have super wavy, wavy hair and I could never get it really long because it's just so unruly. Actually, I did have it kind of long in the '70s. It was really curly and I wore sort of a 'fro - an Italian 'fro with my mother's northern European hair color.
AP: Your career zings from TV "24" to drama like "Angels in America" to musicals like "Spring Awakening." It's all over.
Spinella: I don't play the same guy a lot because there really isn't a guy for me. There really isn't a type you can put me in that satisfies everything. And I'm physically nonconventional. I'm very thin, I have really skinny legs. Look, I'm not going to play Mark Wahlberg's sidekick in "Lone Survivor."
AP: You were last at the Booth Theatre for "Our Town" with Paul Newman in 2002. Any good memories?
Spinella: After we finished the run, we spent eight days getting ready to shoot it for Showtime. I have this wonderful memory of his wife, Joanne Woodward, whispering something in his ear and him laughing and laughing. He then leaned over and whispered something in her ear, and she started laughing and laughing. This went on for two or three minutes. They just had so much fun with each other.