Randy Harrison Finds a Safe ’Harbor’ on Stage
In Chad Beguelin's comedy-drama Harbor, now being presented by Primary Stages at 59E59 Theaters through September 8, former "Queer as Folk" star Randy Harrison is turning in an expertly-calibrated performance as Kevin, a wannabe, 30-something writer whose seemingly blissful 10-year relationship with Ted, an older, wealthy architect, suddenly explodes after the arrival of Kevin's trashy sister, Donna.
"I don't actually know couples exactly like Ted and Kevin," says Harrison. "But not only is their relationship very real on the page, but I've had moments in my own relationships, both with partners and friends, where I've been both Ted and Kevin. So it was easy to use my imagination on this show."
While Harrison admits there were some elements of the script that he didn't originally know how to handle, there were two major elements to the role of Kevin that immediately drew him to the project. "The scene in which Ted tells Kevin that he's basically a child and a failure is my worst nightmare come true," says the self-effacing Harrison. "I think anyone who is any kind of artist sometimes feels like they're a fraud. And to have your partner confront you with that - which in Kevin's case is the truth - is just horrifying."
Harrison also had no trouble with Donna’s pull on her brother, even though she is a terrible mother to her teenaged daughter, Lottie, and is now pregnant with another child - which she wants Ted and Kevin to adopt.
"I have a dear friend who is very similar to Donna," admits Harrison. "She has a child and still runs around world. A lot of people of see the play and think that the character of Donna is too much, but I immediately understood the attraction between her and Kevin. I also know why Kevin would be thrilled and liberated by her carelessness, even though he knows in his heart she’s going to fuck up his relationship with Ted. In a way, he knows he’s never going to fulfill his true potential if he stays with Ted. It’s kind of like Nora in ’A Doll’s House.’"
Harrison has worked steadily on stage for the past few years, on Broadway (in ’Wicked’), Off-Broadway, and in regional theater, but says ’Harbor’ is one of the happiest experiences he’s ever had. "Sometimes, especially in New York, doing theater can be a bit fraught," he says. "It’s not just the pressure of being here, but there’s always someone scheming about their career or worrying if the show is going to lead to a TV series. But this was the most relaxed rehearsal environment I’ve ever been in. I think it helped that our director, Mark Lamos, and two of our cast members, Alexis Molnar and Paul Anthony Stewart, had done the play before [at the Westport Country Playhouse] so they knew it would work. And because of that, we were all able to relax a bit and to talk about everything freely during the rehearsal process."
The ’child’ thing
One of the major topics of conversation - and the crux of the play - is the issue of gay people having children. (Kevin is interested in adopting Donna’s child, while Ted is firmly against it.) "I’m happy gay people can have kids when they want them and I hope someday maybe I’ll have that option," says Harrison. "Right now, being gay is not a factor in my decision not to have kids, it’s more about economics. Having a child is financially prohibitive for me as a stage actor. If I was better off, maybe I’d feel differently. I’ve even sometimes think that if I was straight, right after I ended my run on ’Queer as Folk’, it would have been the perfect time for me to get pregnant. I had money and I was in a stable relationship. Who knows, I might have four kids by now. Thankfully, I am not menopausal quite yet."
Harrison could have pursued more film and television work after making such a splash as Justin, the surprisingly tough twinkie on ’Queer as Folk,’ but he made a conscious decision to stick to the stage. "That was an easy role for me to play, but I knew doing theater was the only way I would change and grow as an actor," he says. "And doing all these stage roles has given me a type of confidence I wouldn’t have otherwise. I think I’ve matured in every way, although I know a lot of people think I look the same as I did back then. I don’t. I’m 35. Every once a while someone approaches me to play an innocent teenager, and I think ’that’s ridiculous. Have you seen me recently?’"
To that end, Harrison is taking a little more control of his career. He is a co-founder of the QWAN Company, which does stage parodies of films. (Their next production, in which they are performing their takes on ’Black Swan’ and ’Notes on a Scandal,’ will be take place on Sunday, September 1 at Dixon Place). Not only does he want to devote more time to the group, but Harrison has been taking singing lessons again, in the hopes of landing another Broadway musical.
He’s also keen to do more film work, having recently shot the independent feature ’Such Good People’ with fellow gay icon Michael Urie. "It’s this sweet caper film, and it was so much fun to do," he says. "It was my first time on a film set in eight years and I know have to get back on camera more, just so I can keep a roof over my head."
Still, Harrison doesn’t really plan to go Hollywood. "Los Angeles is a great place to work, but I am really committed to staying in New York. I have been here for almost 15 years, and I still love it. And let’s face it, no one really knows who I am in L.A. Sure, I had a TV series, but it ended eight years ago. Out there, they have really short memories."
Randy Harrison is featured in Harbor through September 8, 2013 presented by Primary Stages at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, NYC, NY. For more information, visit the Primary Stages website.
For more on the QWAN Company visit the company’s Facebook page.
For more on Randy Harrison, visit his Facebook page.