Raúl Esparza earned raves as the perpetual bachelor Bobby in Stephen Sondheim’s Company in 2006, then played Lenny the pimp in Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming. Now he’s headed into Speed-the-Plow, David Mamet’s ferocious comedy about Hollywood hustling. So how is it to shoulder the work of three masters of stage language? “I kept referring to Pinter’s writing as jazz, and I think Mamet is very much in that vein,” he says. “The language kind of takes care of itself, and anything else you add is not necessary.”
Though he doesn’t have the L.A. résumé of his co-stars (Jeremy Piven and Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss), Esparza has spent enough time in movieland to say that Mamet’s depiction is “very, very close to reality.” Which is not to say that all Hollywood folk are evil. He finds some good even in his character, a producer who locks horns with a friend to greenlight a film. “It may be a shark’s loyalty, but it is loyalty. It may be a robber’s idea of honor, but it is still honor.” As for his complex personal life (frankly detailed in a Times profile in 2006), he doesn’t want to go there—“I’ve said all I ever need to say about that subject”—but two years in the Sondheim-Mamet-Pinter emotional war zone don’t seem to have wrecked him. “Life is very peaceful these days,” he says—from his parents’ pool in Miami, no less. “If I complain about my life, I really need to get my head examined.”
By David Mamet.
Ethel Barrymore Theatre; in previews October 3 for an October 23 opening.