NEW YORK — Patrick Wilson, star of the Broadway revival of Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park,” brings new meaning to the phrase “life imitates art” when he suddenly goes into freak-out mode, realizing he’s left his wedding band at home.
“It’s safe, but I need it for the show,” explains the actor, who plays the newlywed Paul and who also is a newlywed in real life, having married Dagmara Dominczyk last June. “Oh no! Oh God. Is there someone to call? I don’t know what the hell to do! I’m so sorry. What time is it? 6:20? Such a nightmare.”
A frantic call to his pregnant wife at home in Brooklyn is no more reassuring, since she refuses to drive his ring to the theater in time for the show.
“You can’t get in the habit?” sings Wilson after hanging up the phone, repeating his wife’s stern reprimand. “When have I ever done this before? I’ve never done that.”
Neil Simon couldn’t have written the somewhat neurotic exchange any better. And it’s just one example of why Wilson, with his clean-cut good looks, is ideal casting for the role of Paul, a conservative lawyer comedically mismatched with his new unconventional bride Corey, played by Amanda Peet. Though Wilson has considerable experience in Broadway musicals, having starred in productions of “Oklahoma” and “The Full Monty,” “Barefoot in the Park,” directed by Scott Elliott and opening tonight at the Cort Theatre, marks his first straight play.
The Florida native acted in school musicals and sang in his church choir before deciding at 15 to go full throttle with his interest in acting after attending a theater camp. “It was probably the first time I did something that could either make people feel or, more likely at 15, it was what I could feel and go, ‘Oh my God, I’m emoting!'” exclaims the actor.
Wilson then attended Carnegie Mellon’s conservatory and jumped straight into New York theater. He has since done both TV and movies, most notably, “Angels in America” and the film version of “Phantom of the Opera.” He will soon be seen in “Hard Candy” with Sandra Oh, “American Gothic” opposite Kate Winslet and Jennifer Connelly and Ed Burns’ “Purple Violets.”
This story first appeared in the February 16, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
When it came to committing six months to “Barefoot,” Wilson consulted his “Angels” director Mike Nichols, who also did the 1967 film version of the play starring Jane Fonda and Robert Redford and who told him it would be a great fit.
“There’s something very reasonable and practical about Paul that I have a tendency to be,” Wilson says, admitting that while practicing lines many of them rang true. “He’s trying to take charge and be in control and do the right thing.…it’s very frustrating for Corey and for most women, too, I would imagine, when a man is trying to be very reasonable and not being very emotional.”
Though Wilson can at times identify with the struggles of Corey and Paul, he is quick to emphasize that he does not intentionally seek out commonalities between himself and his characters.
“It wasn’t so much about, well, he’s very conservative or I’m this and he’s that. I never really get caught up in that. If I was, then I would be explaining playing pedophiles and closeted Mormons,” he laughs.