“My brother, Myron, never worked a day in his life,” said actor/playwright Anthony Giaimo. “He scammed his way through life and was a small-time gambler. I was as different from him as brothers possibly could be. My play asks, how do two people, who really resent each other and have disdain for each other, find commonality?”
The first production of Giaimo’s new company, Actors Theater of Woodstock, will be his play Curtains for Myron, a dark comedy that explores the relationship between two radically different brothers. Shows will run June 8 to June 24 at the Bearsville Theater.
After a successful career in film and Off-Broadway productions, including a Screen Actors Guild Award for his ensemble role in Mike Nichols’ hit The Birdcage, Giaimo retired to his weekend house in Woodstock. Aside from teaching theater at SUNY Ulster, he thought he was done with the acting business until the election of President Donald Trump thrust the rhetoric of polarization in our faces. “All this political stuff,” Giaimo said. “I’m a Democrat, but I couldn’t listen to either side. And then my brother died.” Making parallels between the battles over the Trump administration and his own family drama, Giaimo realized the story he had to tell would resonate in the American mind.
“My brother was an Italian boy who had a name associated with a Jewish person,” he explained. His parents named their firstborn Mariano, but due to an error at the hospital, the name on his birth certificate came out as Myron. The parents never got around to fixing it. “Myron lived with my mother for most of his life,” Giaimo said. “He scammed her with fake abortions, phony guns that he threatened to shoot in the yard, and sometimes real guns. He was married for 10 minutes, and it was not good. He had a kid out of wedlock. We were so different. He was not educated, and I was. He was straight, I was gay. I an was actor who did Shakespeare, and he was a mini Tony Soprano wannabe. I avoided him a lot.”
Nevertheless, on holidays, Giaimo drove from New York City to New Haven to see his family. “We had so many fights over the years,” he recalled. “He made me laugh, but he also said vile things and was abusive. I didn’t write [the] play to vilify him, but his slang is out there, no holds barred. The brother, at the end of the play, has discoveries. Through thick and thin, they’re still brothers. How can you have such negative feelings about someone and still love them?”
In the play, Giaimo, ironically, takes the role of Myron. The playwright’s character is performed by New York stage veteran Michael Ianucci. Also in the cast are Susan Cella, one of the actresses who played Evita on Broadway after Patti LuPone, and Tina Keyes.
“My brother said to me before he died, ‘If you cremate me, I’ll come back to fuckin’ haunt you,’” said Giaimo. “And he is — here I am channeling him. My sister and I were sitting there, trying to figure out how to bury this guy — on Amex? It didn’t seem right that we put him on a credit card, so we cremated him.”
It wasn’t until he completed the play that Giaimo realized how Myron had inspired his performances in tough-guy roles such as the brother-in-law of The Sopranos star James Gandolfini in the film Not Fade Away. “That’s not really who I am, but I never gave my brother credit for that before.”
Now that Giaimo is back in the world of performance, he expects Actors Theater of Woodstock to continue producing shows. “But I won’t act in them,” he said. “I’m interested in new works only. It’s a safe haven to workshop things here. If I keep my relationship with the owner of the Bearsville Theater, maybe we can do a play every summer. I like plays that explore the dark side of humanity, the things people don’t talk about. I find humor and drama in that.”
Actors Theater of Woodstock presents Curtains for Myron June 8 to June 24, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., with two Sunday matinees on June 17 and June 24 at 2 p.m. Shows will take place at the Bearsville Theater, 291 Tinker Street, Woodstock. Tickets are $35 each. For tickets call the Bearsville Theater box office at 845-679-4406 or visit https://actorstheatreofwoodstock.com.