‘Our Town’ guest artists talk characters

JOSHUA BOUCHER | Staff Photographer
Manu Narayan, left, plays the stage manager in Our Town, which opens Saturday. Narayan said his character is the “quintessential narrator in a play.” Michael Potts, right, plays Dr. Gibbs.

Chautauqua Theater Company is a day away from the opening performance of the season: Thornton Wilder’s classic Our Town. This three-act play, which opens at 8 p.m. Saturday in Bratton Theater, is not only about the lives of the citizens of Grover’s Corners, but about the coming together of the guest artists who have experienced three different acting spaces: the stage, TV screen and silver screen.

Manu Narayan began his Broadway journey in 2004 with his debut in the musical Bombay Dreams. He was also a part of the film “The Love Guru,” alongside Jessica Alba and Justin Timberlake, and is in the band Darunam. He has made guest appearances on TV shows and movies. And if that wasn’t enough, he plays the stage manager in Our Town.

“He is the storyteller, the narrator of the play,” Narayan said. “I have narrated on stage before but this would be, in American plays, one of the most iconic narrator roles. He is looking through his lens and telling the play from the future, telling the audience about these people in the beginning of the 20th century and leading the audience through, on their journey.”

Joining Narayan is Michael Potts, another actor who has seen the best of all three worlds. He played Mafala Hatimbi in the Tony Award-winning musical The Book of Mormon and was a part of the first season of HBO’s “True Detective” as Detective Maynard Gilbough. He has also made some film appearances in the past. He plays Frank Gibbs, the town doctor, in the play.

“Dr. Gibbs is the only doctor for this town of 2,640 people, just recently 2,642 people,” Potts said. “He pretty much knows the ins and outs and knows everybody’s affairs pretty well. He has a very unique perspective and relationship with everybody because he has, at some point, known everybody.”

Narayan and Potts have experienced the vast differences in the theater, TV and film through the years. But both actors have enjoyed being on stage as much, if not more, than the other two mediums.

“In a film, there is a lot of ‘hurry up and wait.’ You can wait 15 hours to do a 15-minute shot. TV is in between film and theater, it goes faster because they do have to get an episode done,” Potts said. “TV scripts have become more complex and they allow you to develop a character, just as theater.”