A year ago, Raymond J. Barry submitted his play "Once in Doubt" to the Los Angeles Theatre Center--and it was rejected.
"They thought the non-sequitur scenes like me jumping on the light-bulb glass saying, 'I wish something exciting would happen,' wouldn't work," says the Obie-winning actor. "The literary critic wrote a scathing review." Undeterred, Barry bowed the play last January at the Cast Theatre, followed by a summer run at the People's Light in Pennsylvania. Suddenly, the show was hot.
Today, the actor is front and center at LATC, performing his blacker-than-black comedy of romantic \o7 Angst\f7 to 320 theatergoers nightly. "I'm used to playing for five or six people on Thursday, 10 on Sunday and maybe 20 on Saturday--if we were lucky," Barry says ruefully. "So we got into the ethic of not paying attention to the audience, just the work. For me, the show is very cathartic. You write it, perform it, purge it. It's a real strength-builder."
So is his new acclaim. A graduate of Brown University and the Yale School of Drama, Barry was a member of Joe Chaikin's famed Open Theatre, knocking about the New York stage for 20 years. In 1985, he moved West--and quickly started working in TV and film. Now comes director Oliver Stone's "Born on the Fourth of July" (opening next week), starring Tom Cruise as disabled Vietnam War vet turned war protester Ron Kovic. Barry plays his father.
"I hear it's wonderful," he says proudly. Not that those rewards came easily. Reliving the painful aftermath of Vietnam took a heavy emotional toll. "I couldn't talk to Oliver, I couldn't talk to Tom; I became paralyzed," Barry says. "I think I may've done my best work in that film. But I also feel very exposed, very vulnerable. I'll probably wait to hear what the reviews say, then sneak into a theater and see it."