Justin Bartha: “I think there’s a sensitivity to actors and performance that’s inherit to theater”

Justin Bartha might be best known as the Wolf Pack member who is always left out of the fun in The Hangover films, but he’s also started to rack up an impressive resume in Broadway theatre in 2011.

Bartha debuted in the revival of Lend Me a Tenor directed by Stanley Tucci, and is currently starring in his third show this year, Asuncion, which was written by fellow actor and friend Jesse Eisenberg.  In an interview with Broadway.com, Bartha reveals what he likes about acting in a play written by his friend and what he’s gotten out of his Broadway experiences that he hasn’t out of his more recognized film roles.

Though Bartha currently stars with Eisenberg in Asuncion, he actually has been involved with the play for years.  He explains, “Jesse and I have been friends for almost 10 years. We first did a reading of this about five years ago at my friend’s apartment, and over the years we’ve worked on it together. I think he had my voice in mind when writing Vinny. We did a couple more readings, one for Rattlestick, which is one of our favorite theaters, and kept going from there.”

This isn’t Bartha’s first play that he has acted in that was written by an actor-turned-playwright since he appeared in Zach Braff‘s All New People earlier this year.  Bartha says he can definitely notice an actor’s touch in scripts an actor has written, saying, “I think there’s a sensitivity to actors and performance that’s inherit to theater in the first place. What’s amazing about Jesse’s play is not only is the writing so strong, but every line of dialogue is fantastically woven and character-based. Even with all the great lines in the show, the biggest laughs are usually from a character’s reaction to the lines. It’s very much based in character and the relationship between the actors and not just the dialogue.”  So does that mean Bartha has playwright ambitions of his own?  He laughs off the question, but replies, “I’m a huge fan of theater and plays, so we’ll see. You never know. I have always tinkered around with my own things. I’d love to mount my own play, but I think I’m all burnt out on the actor-playwright thing now.”

With Bartha jumping into theatre feet first this year it appears that he’s found something in it that he had been missing in his film acting.  He confirms that the “simplicity” of theatre is something that he finds very motivating and liberating, saying, “Theater has a very different kind of control for an actor. It’s two hours on stage that’s yours to live within your character. It’s also, for a lack of better term, low tech. I’m a simple kind of guy who likes the basics. Although I love movies and consider myself a cinephile, I get the most exhilaration from just acting on a stage without having to worry about any sort of special effects. The current trend in movies is very technology driven and I love the other end of the spectrum. I think we’re going to see a crop of beautiful new plays plays and the quality of theater is going to continue growing because there’s an outlet for that anti-technology sense.”

Asuncion runs through November 27 at the Cherry Lane Theatre.

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