TV, film and Broadway actors from New York City and Los Angeles have partnered with local actors to bring “The Odd Couple” to a Moscow stage that few have seen.A staged reading of the play will be held in an auditorium in the 1912 Center not generally open to the public and will feature Michael Kostroff, a New York City-based actor who is married to Moscow’s Jenny Kostroff, executive director of the 1912 Center. Kostroff has appeared in numerous TV and film roles. The last time he did a staged reading of “The Odd Couple,” it was in a minor role alongside Jason Alexander and Martin Short.
Kostroff will appear alongside Moscow’s David Harlan, taking the roles of the mismatched roommates who drive each other crazy but end up being good for each other.
“It’s one of the funniest plays — it’s so hilarious, and the writing is brilliant,” Kostroff said in a phone interview from New York City.
Kostroff currently plays the role of Rizzi in HBO’s “The Deuce,” a show about New York City’s 42nd Street in the 1970s when it was a hotbed of porn and prostitution. A desk sergeant for the police department, the warm and sarcastic Rizzi is a diversion from the dark and gritty nature of the show as well as a departure the sleazy lawyer-type role in which Kostroff often finds himself.
“I do play terrible people, I don’t know why,” Kostroff said, laughing, and adding that the terrible people can be quite a lot of fun to play.
In the past couple of years, Kostroff has also appeared regularly in TV’s “The Blacklist,” “The Good Wife” and “”Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.” He also was recently in the movie “Molly’s Game” and an HBO movie, “The Wizard of Lies,” as Peter Madoff, the brother of Bernie Madoff, played by Robert DeNiro.
Kostroff also coaches actors for auditioning and recently wrote “Audition Psych 101,” based on a popular workshop he teaches. It’s designed for actors, but people from other professions attend because “all of us do mental stuff to ourselves when we have to present ourselves to others,” Kostroff said.
The concept is “anti-positive therapy,” he said, and based in reality — including Kostroff’s own: He was once petrified of auditions, describing himself as “shy and insecure,” and he had to learn to audition with these qualities.
For example, a person might be nervous, Kostroff said, but it’s uncomfortable when that person puts that on others. “Come in like you belong there,” he said.
He uses the same skills working alongside celebrities, where “part of the job is to be a colleague and not a fan,” Kostroff said.
Though Kostroff lives in New York, he visits Moscow regularly to be with his wife. In New York, Kostroff is always “on” as an actor, since people on the street regularly recognize and approach him. In Moscow, though, he gets to “just be Michael” — a husband, a stepdad and a regular guy.
“I like to feel part of the Moscow community,” Kostroff said. “It’s just a different vibe.”
Having been an actor for 20 years, Kostroff has friends in the profession — which is how Chris and Tami Damiano, a TV and Broadway actor couple, ended up in “The Odd Couple.” They were planning to visit anyway and got roped into the show.
The idea for a staged reading came out of a connection with Harlan who has worked with Kostroff’s wife numerous times in his role as the artistic director of Moscow Art Theatre (Too), and vice president of the board of directors for the 1912 Center. He was rehearsing his role in “The Odd Couple” with the Lewiston Civic Theatre and Lewis-Clark State College drama program last fall when Jenny overheard the work. The two began talking about doing a fundraiser to restore the second and third stories of the 1912 Center.
The staged reading will take place in a small performance auditorium located on the second floor of the 1912 Center, which formerly was a high school. Because neither the second or third floors have been renovated, they generally aren’t open to the public. The event marks only the second time the area has been open to the public in recent years.
A staged reading differs from a typical theater production in that actors read from the script and the stage contains only stands and stools. To fill in what might be lacking in the set, stage directions typically seen only by those involved in a production will be read, providing descriptions. Kostroff compared it to listening to a radio play.
“It’s a strikingly funny script,” said Harlan. “And part of the charm is in some of the descriptions.”
Harlan was laid off of his “real world job” with IBM last July and is looking for full time work. In the meantime, he’s doing a lot of writing and art, some of which will be featured during the upcoming Moscow Artwalk.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: “The Odd Couple” staged reading and fundraiser for the 1912 Center
WHEN: 2 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Second-floor auditorium, 1912 Center, 412 E. Third St., Moscow
COST: $25; online at www.1912center.org or call (208) 669-2249