The comedy Marriage opens this weekend at the Hilberry Theatre and actor Brent Griffith is excited to perform the lead role of Podkoliosin the bachelor although he did not do any extreme preparations for the role. "I am not married and have never been engaged," he says, "and I didn't go out and do either to gain experience for the role."
Griffith, native to the Seattle area and a graduate of Central Washington University, is a second year graduate student who enjoys being part of the Hilberry company. "So far my favorite role has been (Adolphus) Cusins in Major Barbara last season," he says. "I also had a lot of fun learning the ropes of tour life during my undergrad with the touring children's show Fool the World." With the role of Podkolionsin, Griffith gets to play a very indecisive character. "He is a guy that has reached a point in his life where he knows he should be married, but doesn't know if it's right for him. He's very sort of wishy-washy. He will be all one way, then all in the other way. He also lets himself be affected by outside forces more so than his own and what he really wants I think," he says. "He realizes being married is a good thing, but at the same time I don't think he really wants it."
Marriage is by Nikolai Gogal and was originally published in 1842. It is consider to the classic Russian tale of arranged marriages. "The title says it all. My character decides that he wants to get married, but is undecided at the same time so he goes to a matchmaker to try and find a wife," says Griffith. "Then my friend decides he can set me up better than the matchmaker can and tries to get rid of other suitors that are after this one single lady and set me up with her. It is really just a comedy about matchmaking and making the right match in marriage."
An interesting aspect of this production is that while the play is by a Russian playwright, the director, James Thomas, choose to use a Russian method of Etude during the rehearsal process. "It was a different process than I was used to because I don't think at any point we had our scripts in hand on stage while we were rehearsing," says Griffith. "We would read through the scene twice, then we would say it in our words without the script in front of us, and finally we would go on stage and just sort of fudge through it in our own words." The Etude Method is very popular in Russian theatre and Griffith found it unusual to never actually rehearse with the script in his hand on stage, but he felt it made more of a connection between the actors by using the method. "It forced us to really look at each other and go for what we wanted and get what we wanted instead of just reading along with our noses in the book," he says.
The comedy is a lighthearted show that is strictly meant to be a fun time according to Griffith. "There is no deeper message we are trying to get across," he says. "It's just sort of a fun, breezy night at the theatre. You don't have to think hard about it, you can just come in and enjoy what you are watching."
Marriage opens February 22nd and run in repertory through April 6th at the Hilberry Theatre in Detroit. For more information or ticket, visit www.hilberry.com.