Jeremy Shamos' Winning Streak The Dinner With Friends Star on Pulitzer Prize-Winning Plays

By Harry Haun
24 Feb 2014

Jeremy Shamos and Marin Hinkle
Photo by Jeremy Daniel

It's not much of a conundrum, that. There is a decency, an intelligence, that clings like a cardigan to Gabe, as indeed it does to most of the characters that Shamos plays. The actor can't help it. "I think it's the luck of the draw," he dirt-kicked, "but, in general, that's a good approach to a role because most people want to be liked unless they're out to be mean."

Karl Lindner is as mean as Shamos gets, and it's as close as he has gotten to a feature-actor Tony, but even then, even with the character's bigoted, manipulative agenda, he does muster some politeness and civility in trying to talk a Caucasian house-owner out of selling his home to an African-American family. That failing, Lindner — in a play written a half-century before Clybourne Park, Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun — calls on his new neighbors and tries to buy back the place for a lot more money, again to no avail.

Immediately after Clybourne Park, he played James Lingk — the exact opposite of Karl Lindner: A gullible chump thrashing around in a shark-tank of greedy real-estate agents trying to close with him on a house he doesn't want — in the second Broadway revival of David Mamet's 1984 Pulitzer Prize winner, Glengarry Glen Ross. Sad, sad.

But the happy thing about these proven or potential Pulitzer plays is the company he keeps with them — Al Pacino and Bobby Cannavale in Glengarry, Jessica Hecht and Judith Light in The Assembled Parties, and every manjack in Clybourne Park who went from Off-Broadway to London to Los Angeles to Broadway over a two-year period. "We worked so long on it we were sort of an organism, breathing together as one big group."

Before Parties ended on Broadway, Woody Allen crooked his finger for a film, "Magic in the Moonlight." "I play a psychotherapist in the '20s. It was a small role, but it was a great summer in the south of France." Then he managed to squeeze in his second Emma Stone movie in a row, "Birdman." "It's the hardest role I've ever played — a bad actor on a movie set with Naomi Watts." Who did he use for a reference? "Myself, in that situation."

Next season on Broadway Shamos will star in Human, a play Chazz Palminteri has been developing with his A Bronx Tale director, Jerry Zaks. "Chazz is a very generous and funny guy and very loyal in wanting to read it with me every time he's worked on it. It's gotten better and better. He's a banker, and I'm a jogger — two very different people who meet in the park. It has a Zoo Story feel to it."

We'll wait and see on the Pulitzer.