What follows is Orsini's take on The Nance, working with Nathan Lane and Jack O'Brien, and even his dream role (he's a real romantic!).
JEFF: Now you are making your Broadway debut, though this is not your first play by a long shot. You’ve done Shakespeare, modern classics and contemporary works. What stage roles are you dying to take on?
JONNY: I’d love to play Romeo. I feel most strongly connected to him more than any other classic character I’ve yet come across to this point in my life. [He’s] girl crazy, [has a] wide open heart, [and] incredibly passionate. I am all these things. That said, I believe in living in the moment and being true to yourself, so if the right production never came up for some reason, that’s fine, too. There are many other roles, an infinite amount not yet written, that I’d be honored to dive into.
JEFF: All of this brings us back to The Nance. I guess the obvious question to start with is the full nudity required of the role. Unless The Little Dog Laughed was much different in Boston than New York, this isn’t your first time doing nudity on stage. In both plays, I felt that the nudity was necessary and germane to the story, the characters, and themes – certainly not gratuitous.
JONNY: Every human being exists in a pure natural state of nudity at some point in the day. I, as Ned, am a living, breathing, loving human being, and the scene happens to catch one of those parts of my day where I’d be in this natural state. What is gratuitous is certainly up for interpretation, but I agree with you, the nudity in this and in Little Dog is just an expression of vulnerability, not exploitation in any way.
JONNY: I believe in the importance of telling stories so we can share experiences with each other and let each other know even if we're different in certain surface ways, we are all the same at heart and, therefore, not alone. It’s universal. This, to me, is an opportunity to tell a story with some of the best storytellers in the business, therefore meaning essentially the most powerful, affecting version of the story possible, and I’m very honored to be a part of that.
JEFF: I can only imagine what it must be like to rehearse scenes with an esteemed director like Jack O’Brien and a beloved and esteemed actor like Nathan Lane. What did they bring to the table that helped you create the palpable (even from the upper balcony) chemistry between the two of you?
JONNY: Nathan and Jack are both such loving people. And me, being a straight guy, Nathan makes it so easy to fall in love with him, because he is that beautiful of a human being in his heart. And Jack created an atmosphere for all of us as a company to feel this warmth and comfort with each other.
JEFF: Finally, what about The Nance makes the play so relevant today, despite its taking place so long ago? In this era of gay rights and marriage equality, what do you hope audiences are getting from this show? For me, Ned’s naiveté and innocence about people being able to live the way they want to, despite the world he lives in, reminds me of my many painful years in the closet – inwardly feeling the way Ned does, but not being brave enough to outwardly live it.
JEFF: Thanks so much, Jonny!
The Nance continues at the Lyceum Theatre through August 11.
(Production photos by Joan Marcus; The Nance excerpt from the LincolnCenterTheater channel on YouTube.)