Philadelphia’s Dito van Reigersberg needs little intro, save that he’s the quiet man behind the splendor who is Martha Graham Cracker, as well as one of three masterminds behind all things Pig Iron Theatre.
Now, van Reigersberg is starring in 1812 Productions’ take on Jonathan Tolins’ play “Buyer & Cellar,” which imagines the hiring of a caretaker for Barbra Streisand’s immaculately kept tchotchkes with van Reigersberg playing all characters.
“I knew we’d need someone incredibly charismatic and naturally funny for the role,” said Jen Childs, 1812 co-founder. “Dito is one of the funniest people I know. I am thrilled to be in his orbit.”
PGN: Are you more fond of the one-person show with a single character or one, like “Buyer,” where you play multiple roles?
DVR: I like the discipline [“Buyer & Cellar”] requires, the specificity in terms of voice and silhouette, so the audience sees each character instantly and recognizes them every time they appear. But, I must admit, it can be lonely up there. Sometimes you wish you had other cast to play with, to draw energy from. Once the audience comes, I will feel them as companions in the story; it’s a direct-address show and I narrate certain parts right to them. And thankfully I have done a one-man show, “Poet in New York,” with Pig Iron, so I remember the enormous energy and focus it takes to pull it off.
PGN: Why is Jonathan Tolins’ play handmade for you? Was there anything about the script you don’t usually hear or see?
DVR: It does feel like a good fit for me, in that I love to harness my inner grandiose diva and my regular Joe humble guy. Both seem to sit next to each other in my psyche, oddly enough. I love the tightness of the script; there’s not a wasted line — you see that once you know the whole thing and see him planting all the seeds that pay off later. It’s moving, as well as funny, with a deep humanity that raises questions about how fame makes people crazy — both fans and stars — how a job can have meaning or be totally meaningless, and how surreal and random and cruel to us our work lives can be.
PGN: Is it a requirement that you wear one wig per show?
DVR: I don’t wear a single wig, but hopefully you will see the hair in your mind’s eye.
PGN: You had zilch to do with the writing or conceptual process of “Buyer & Cellar.” What did that feel like?
DVR: With any script you come to — as opposed to you making it — you have to get inside it, as if you made it. It’s a different kind of demand; one challenge is to follow your own impulses when you make something yourself and another is to understand and fill the impulse that the playwright had as if it’s yours.
PGN: As Martha, you commit all manner of direct address with your audiences. How does that same connection change while acting here?
DVR: It’s a similar feeling but “Buyer”’s Alex More is a different kind of host. He wants to tell you this amazing tale, but there’s no singing or physical interaction with the audience. It’s more restrained, but then it’d have to be, right? I often picture a close friend and try to tell them the story in that un-self-conscious way that you get to when you are so ready to spill the juicy gossip with a friend who is eager for the dirt!
PGN: You told me when you did “Legend of Georgia McBride” that there was something of Martha in McBride. Do you feel as if there is something within your Streisand too that’s Graham Cracker-scented?
DVR: No, Streisand is different. She feels more delicate than Martha by far, and also more withholding and guarded. She maintains a mystique. She holds the cards closer to her chest.
PGN: You appear to be inscrutable. What gets your eyes open and arm hairs up?
DVR: I am a cluster of opposites. I love reading poetry alone in my room and I love singing in front of a huge crowd. I contain multitudes. I inherited a restless and inquisitive spirit from my parents and from Pig Iron. I love it when I find myself in a new and unexpected project and think, Well, I haven’t done this before. If I fail, I just hope I fail gloriously.
1812 Productions’ “Buyer & Cellar” runs Oct. 6-29 at Plays & Players Theatre, 1714 Delancey Place. For more information or tickets, visit http://www.1812productions.org/buyer-cellar.