John de Lancie is set to star in Mosaic Theater Company’s production of Pulitzer Prize finalist Jon Robin Baitz’ Vicuña & The American Epilogue as Kurt Seaman, a Donald Trump-inspired real-estate tycoon prepping for his final presidential debate.
The satire, directed by Robert Egan, is an updated version of an acclaimed 2016 production, and features a world-premiere epilogue set 12 years into the future, reckoning with the devastation wrought by a reckless administration.
The original play was staged last year by Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, and tells the story of what happens when the election spins out of control, and the candidate’s tailor and his apprentice are forced to examine their roles as his confidants and image-makers.
“Bob sent me this play and as I began reading it, I realized this was a major playwright deciding he was going to say something about what’s going on politically, so I read it very closely,” de Lancie says. “I thought, ‘he’s lending his voice to what he feels and I’m willing to lend my acting voice to that’ and that’s really how it all came about.”
Not that he didn’t have concerns about playing a Trump-inspired character.
“I didn’t want people to expect a Saturday Night Live thing,” de Lancie says. “The minute that was off the table, I was interested. I approached it like any role—every role has its own vibration and you try to find the most connection between what the character is and yourself so you end up really playing a part of yourself.”
de Lancie remembers making a comment to his wife when he first read the script that he would be touching his “inner vulgarity” but loved that the character had layers.
“He’s a very smart, dangerous guy, but it’s not Trump. It’s Trump-like, and there are certainly things that are recognizable,” he says. “This is what the art world is able to do. It’s able to throw a mirror up to nature and to give the audience the opportunity to observe what it’s like to go through it. I’m very interested to see how the audience responds to this.”
Vicuña & The American Epilogue
from Mosaic Theater Company of DC
closes December 3, 2017
Details and tickets
He himself is involved politically on a certain level, saying he spends a fair amount of time focusing on things that have to do with religion and science and believing there should in fact be a great gulf fixed between those two entities.
“This felt like a good fit for me,” de Lancie says. “Any good playwright, and I’m talking about the best, doesn’t just argue things from one point of view, so you are seeing things from different sides. My wife is very political and Left-leaning in her politics and she was bouncing up and down off the sofa saying, ‘you won’t believe this!’ She said people are going to believe this, and it’s good writing in that respect.”
de Lancie has a theatrical resume that would make many jealous. He’s been a company member of the American Shakespeare Company, the Seattle Repertory Company, the South Coast Repertory, the Mark Taper Forum, and the Old Globe.
He’s also racked up quite a career on television, recurring as Donald Margolis in Breaking Bad and appearing in everything from The West Wing to The Practice to NYPD Blue.
Still, the role de Lancie is approached almost regularly about is the lovable, off-beat inventor Eugene Bradford from Days of Our Lives, which he played starting in 1985.
“Some people try to hide the fact that they were on a soap, but I had just a great time and always had good feelings about that show,” he says. “I got hired to do essentially five days; I was the red herring psychopath. I looked at the show and realized what they needed was a comedian, and I knew I could do what the script required, but still do it with a little bit of a twinkle.”
At the end of his week of work, de Lancie was approached in the parking lot by the producers asking him to come back, and he went on to become a fan favorite for several years, still beloved to this day.
That gig also led to the actor to booking another of his most memorable roles—the nefarious Q in Star Trek: The Next Generation, which he reprised in both Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager.
“I was in the middle of a play and didn’t ’t go to the first audition, but my agent said a producer kept calling asking for me, so finally I went in and this guy walks out and says, ‘you make my words sound better than they are,’ and it was Gene Roddenberry,” de Lancie says. “Another guy came up to me and said I was there because of him: ‘This is a payback. I was flat on my back with a quadruple bypass operation and every day you would come on and you would make me laugh when I thought I was going to die.’”
This is de Lancie’s first acting job in D.C., and the timing couldn’t have been better for him as his oldest son just moved here after being out of the country for eight years, and coincidentally, his youngest son just moved to the area for a while.
Joining de Lancie in the show are Brian George as Iranian bespoke tailor Anselm, Laura C. Harris as the candidate’s daughter, Srilanka, and Kimberly Schraf as Senator Kitty Finch-Gibbon, head of the Republican National Committee.