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Maury Sterling stars in “A Gambler’s Guide To Dying” Interview – Los Angeles Premiere by Gary McNair

By Ester Benjamin Shifren

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True story? Maury Sterling has certainly made it his own story, as any good actor would, but playwright Gary McNair, in this Los Angeles Premiere at Ruskin Group Theatre, says, “I don’t like to answer that question. If I tell people it’s true they think less of my writing, and if I tell them that I made it up they think less of my writing. I want the play to stand on its own.” It does that.

Through the eyes of a young boy and continuing into his adulthood, this is an intergenerational tale of what we live for and what we leave behind. A story about the child’s granddad and the big impression that the man’s personality had upon his life, and even on the lives of those who knew of him. He won a fortune, or so the story went, and then he gambled it all on living to see the new millennium, after being diagnosed with a terminal disease. He never shied away from a bet because of the odds.

Maury Sterling plays all the characters in this production, including the role of the narrator. He seamlessly embodies the young boy, the Mum, and the grandfather. It’s a true adventure in storytelling. If you are a fan of Showtime’s Homeland you will probably recognize him as the character “Max,” a role he played from 2011 – 2014, and perhaps his additional film and TV credits will seem familiar since they include roles in, Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce, Masters of Sex, Extant, Veronica Mars, In Plain Sight, A-Team, and Smokin Aces. At Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica, where this play makes its Los Angeles premiere, Maury is well known for his leading roles in All My Sons, Mutiny at Port Chicago, and Unbeatable Harold.

He discusses his current gig, now playing with very favorable attention from the press, and how he came to take on this project:


EBS: How did this script come to you, and why was it a role you felt drawn to?

Maury: The script was brought to me via Mike Myers at the Ruskin Group Theatre. It was brought to him by Paul Linke, the Director, who got it from Ellen Bry, who I believe, saw the original production at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where it won the Holden Street’s Edinburgh Fringe Award). When I first read it, my first thought was…there is no way I can do this. I love the piece, but there is no way I can do this. I did, and do, love what Gary has written and I was immediately drawn to the role/roles, and to the story. I just couldn’t let go.

EBS: Can you talk about the process, and how it’s been different from the other plays that you’ve done?

Maury: Early on in the rehearsal process Paul welcomed me to the ranks of solo performers. I at first thought, "Yeah, whatever," but his words have taken on a whole new meaning now. It is a different medium. I am so grateful for his guidance in creating moments between two people when one of them isn't there. The best part is that whenever anyone has been late, it has been me. I'm the only one I have to wait on. Learning the lines was the first hurdle. There have been a lot more "firsts" in this process. Thanks to Paul Linke, Nicole Millar, and everyone at the Ruskin the process has been an experience of a lifetime. So much of it has been new and different, and then much of the process has been the same, in terms of the work that an actor must do. Working on dialect, specificity, relationship, etc.

EBS: Do you find it much more of a challenge being a solo performer in a play?

It has been galvanizing. I can be very heady, and this has forced me to be more present and to do the work to be present. There is no time to get caught up in my own nonsense. The next moment just keeps coming, much like life. The biggest challenges felt like learning the script. Believing I could do it, and page by page it just happened. It has certainly demanded more of me. Physically, mentally, there is nowhere to hide. 

EBS: What does this play have to say to audiences, and what do you hope they will take away from the experience of watching the performance?

Maury: I love this play, and I hope that audiences do too. Gary McNair has created a really beautiful piece about life, truth, and perspective, how we see things, and each other. I can go on and on. I think, ultimately the play nudges us to live better, to be human, and be the best we can, including all of the confusion, and ideas, and feelings. It touches on a lot of universal life themes and messages in delightful, funny, poignant ways.

EBS: What is your next project? Would you consider another journey into solo performance, perhaps something that you develop from a personal experience of your own?

Maury: I have some television and film work coming up but in terms of theater, there’s nothing on the books. I have thought of creating a solo piece, but there’s been nothing that has grabbed me yet. For today, I'm grateful to be able to use Gary's words. I don't think I have a story yet that wouldn't feel like a perilous leap into self-indulgence. What I love about "A Gambler's Guide to Dying" is its humanity, something that we can all relate to it.  

 A GAMBLER’S GUIDE TO DYING runs at 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and 2pm on Sundays through April 29, 2016 (no performances March 25 – 27). Ruskin Group Theatre is located at 3000 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90405. Tickets are $25 ($20 for students, seniors, and guild members) and can be purchased in advance by calling (310) 397-3244 or online at Ruskin Theatre Group

Ample free parking available on site.     
















Published on Mar 19, 2016

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