All John Sutton was missing was a little class. Acting class.
A Galway native and long-time attorney there, he participated in an acting class offered by Albany’s Patrick White last year, and with that experience under his belt he felt ready to set his own stage lights a bit higher than just the Galway Little Theater.
“I was in Patrick’s charter class last fall and that gave me the confidence to go ahead and audition anywhere,” said Sutton, who is playing Inspector Rough in Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 play “Angel Street,” opening Friday at Albany Civic Theater and running through Sept. 13.
WHERE: Albany Civic Theater, 235 Second Ave., Albany
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through Sept. 13; show times are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $18-$10
MORE INFO: 462-1297, www.albanycivictheater.org
“It helped me a tremendous amount. I’ve done a lot with the Galway Players and the Galway Little Theater, but this is my first foray into the big city, so to speak, and it’s been a great experience,” he said.
“Angel Street,” directed by Jennifer Van Iderstyne, tells the story of a man who is psychologically abusing his wife. Jennifer Bullington plays the wife, Bella Manningham, and Kevin X. McNamara is her husband, Jack Manningham, while rounding out the cast are Cait Webber as Nancy and Sandi Dollinger as Elizabeth.
Hamilton’s play was originally titled “Gas Light” when it was first produced on the West End in London, and the 1944 Hollywood film version, “Gaslight,” was directed by George Cukor and starred Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotten.
“I wasn’t familiar with the play, but I had heard of the term, ‘gaslighting,’ which is a psychological ploy to drive someone crazy,” said Sutton.
“My character is a guy who has had some great successes in his career. Maybe 15 or 20 years before we meet him, he had captured some famous criminals. Now, his attention is on an old crime which was never solved and that’s what brings him to the Manningham house. I think the character is paternal, amiable and I believe he is very intelligent and wily.”
“Angel Street” is a dark, serious play with only a handful of laughs.
“It’s a drama, in fact a melodrama,” said Sutton. “There are some elements of humor, and I suppose most of them come from my interaction with Mrs. Manningham.”
Sutton grew up on Jockey Street in Galway and graduated from SUNY-Binghamton before heading to Albany Law School. Throughout high school he performed with the Galway Players, and more recently has done dinner theater with the Albany Little Theater, something he says will continue when his ACT debut is complete.
“This is certainly a different kind of acting experience than I had in Galway,” he said. ”In Galway we try to do things with only a few rehearsals, but at Albany Civic it’s a cut above my experience with rehearsals and preparations. That’s why I wanted to get involved here.”
Sutton’s wife, Beth Ruman, has worked at Albany Civic before in the costume department and has also served on the board.
“Our kids are out of the house, my wife has plenty of experience costuming at Albany Civic and other places in the area, so I thought it was time for me to do a little more,” said Sutton.
“Then, working with Patrick and learning more about the classical acting teachers of the 1930s and ’40s, hearing about all those different approaches to acting, I felt I was ready to do something more.”
Sutton does have some previous experience working with McNamara, one of the Capital Region’s most familiar faces on area stages.
“Kevin spent four years working with the Galway players,” remembered Sutton. “We were gangsters together in “Kiss Me Kate” back in 2003, and did a great rendition of ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare.’ He is wonderful to work with. I’ve also worked with Cait Webber, who was also in that show, and Sandy Dollinger and I took Patrick’s acting class together.”