Byline: Merle Ginsberg
What’s most apparent upon meeting John Glover is that the tall, angular actor barely resembles a John Glover character.
In Hollywood, a John Glover character is the ultimate baddie: pinched, maniacal, malevolent — as he was in “52 Pickup,” “White Nights,” “Julia,” “Scrooged,” “Masquerade,” and a multitude of TV appearances.
But the John Glover of New York — the real John Glover, the John Glover who moved here in the Sixties and thought he’d never leave, the John Glover who wanted to be in the theater and nothing else — is a lovely man of 50 who’s finally fulfilling an early wish.
The play he’s starred in since September at Manhattan Theater Club’s City Center Stage, Terrence McNally’s “Love! Valour! Compassion!,” is moving to Broadway, opening at the Walter Kerr Theater on
“We had no idea it would go to Broadway,” Glover says over lunch one day at Manhattan’s Trattoria Dell’Arte. “I lived in L.A. for eight years, and all I did originally was take a four-month lease here. I never thought I’d live in New York again. And now I’ve just signed a two-year lease.”
Steady film work or no, there was no way Glover was going to turn down the jewel dual role of John and James Jeckyll, twin English brothers in McNally’s play about a group of eight gay men who convene on various summer weekends at a remote country house. Basically, it’s about a pseudo-family with a so-called “alternate lifestyle,” and its familial interrelationships.
The John character is the mean one: gossipy, abrasive, repressed, and sexually abusive. The James character is sweet, loving, open, adorable — and dying of AIDS. In Glover’s climactic scene, John and James confront each other in a nifty trick of staging; the resulting performance is staggering.
Noting that the play is three hours long and that there are eight performances a week, Glover says doing the show “requires a tremendous amount of energy.”
It also requires nudity. Nathan Lane, Stephen Spinella and almost all the other actors frolic in the buff by a lake for a number of scenes, but both of Glover’s characters manage to escape it.
“Isn’t it nice I don’t have to do it? I didn’t want to show everybody else up. I knew if I took my pants off, the rest of the guys would get a complex! Believe me, it wasn’t easy for anyone to do, no matter how buff. No one was cool about it. Except Nathan. He was fearless about it. He’s just fearless.”
And how will the Broadway audience react to nude men on stage?
“I understand one older lady asked another one in the ladies’ room if that was really legal here.”