James A. Stephens
Photo courtesy the Guthrie Theater
For veteran actors Barbara Bryne, Nathaniel Fuller, and James A. Stephens, the last part of the Guthrie Theater's Christopher Hampton celebration gives them a chance to take the spotlight.
Embers is a play about "love, passion, betrayal, and revenge, in the same breath with elderly people," Fuller says. "There is also a certain amount of mystery and the threat of violence."
Hampton adapted the play from a novel by Sandor Maral. It's centered on the relationship between two men who grew up as the best of friends but had a falling out decades before. Now reunited, the chance to uncover the truth about what drove them apart has arrived.
"When I first read it, I couldn't put it down. It is very intriguing, and it is difficult to describe what it is about because that would give the game away," Bryne says.
"It will make people ask questions about friendship and loyalty," Fuller says.
The actors have used Maral's book as a guide to help uncover their characters. "The play itself is mostly words with a few stage directions. In the book, he has descriptions and more of the nature of the characters. Dramatically, we are not bound to the book, but it certainly is a great source of inspiration," Fuller says.
Each of the actors has decades of experience behind them. For Bryne and Fuller, that includes numerous turns at the Guthrie, along with stops around the world. Stephens is only making his second appearance at the theater (his first was in Shadowlands), but his credits include turns on Broadway, at the National Theatre in London, and in films and television.
"I don't think you could play this role as a young man. You need to go through loss of love, friendship, and broken friendships to understand," Stephens says.
Stephens also carries the lion's share of the work in the play, which offers different challenges for the other two actors. "Nat is very good at concentrating. It's dreadful to look at an actor who is nodding off," he says.
Bryne has scenes at the beginning and the end of the play. Her relationship with the Guthrie goes back to 1970. "I came for six months and stayed for 10 years and 11 seasons," she says. Following years of working in New York and other places, she returned to perform in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and she's been a mainstay since. "The old theater and the new theater have been parts of my life."
Fuller did his first show at the Guthrie in 1988. "I've been a part of every season since then," he says. "It's a wonderful place to work. A big part of your work life is the people you work with. I've enjoyed coming to work every day."
"I like to be busy," Stephens says. "I don't think actors ever retire. I am more particular about the work I take these days. If work comes up and I like it, I take it."
IF YOU GO:
818 S. Second St., Minneapolis
Currently in previews, the show opens Friday and runs through October 27
$29-$39; $24 previews
For tickets and information, call 612.377.2224 or visit online