Stage Shows

Joe Manganiello’s Acts of Devotion

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Joe Manganiello as "Leo Belraggio" and Maria Dizzia as "Nadine Choate" in La Jolla Playhouse's West Coast premiere of Unusual Acts of Devotion, by Terrence McNally playing in the Mandell Weiss Theatre through June 28. (Photo by J. Katarzyna Woronowicz)

Joe Manganiello as "Leo Belraggio" and Maria Dizzia as "Nadine Choate" in La Jolla Playhouse's West Coast premiere of Unusual Acts of Devotion, by Terrence McNally, playing in the Mandell Weiss Theatre through June 28. (Photo by J. Katarzyna Woronowicz)

Remember the high school bully that was always picking on Peter Parker in the blockbuster Spider-Man? The hunky Flash Thompson? He was the class jock harassing the movie’s star in the opening scenes before enduring an embarrassing public thumping from the future web-crawler.

Remember Flash now? If you do, your memory is better than the actor’s who played him.

“When I watch that movie, it doesn’t really register that it’s me,” Joe Manganiello said of his 2002 performance. “It looks like I am watching my son.”

Now 32, Manganiello has grown up playing other memorable roles for both movies and television. He’s been seen in ER, CSI (both the original and the Miami spin-off), Scrubs, Till Death, as a regular character on How I Met Your Mother (one of his favorite television roles) and is currently appearing in One Tree Hill. He also plays the lead in this year’s movie Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia.

San Diegans can catch him along with some other well-known stars in the West Coast premiere of Unusual Acts of Devotion, currently playing at the La Jolla Playhouse.

“Despite keeping busy with film and television shows, I’ve been able to get back to my roots and do some theatre every year,” Manganiello recently told the Entertainer. “I’ve been really fortunate to be able to work on great, great stuff.” And he said he is fortunate to perform in the latest Playhouse production.

In Unusual Acts of Devotion, Manganiello’s character, Leo, is celebrating his fifth wedding anniversary with his wife, Nadine (played by Maria Dizzia), one summer night on their Greenwich Village rooftop. Danger lurks in the air as the tenants of the building crash their celebration, with each character confronting unfulfilled desires and secret longings for each other.

“Drama ensures,” Manganiello explained. While not giving away any plot spoilers, he added, “Things are exposed as to how these people’s lives interconnect. Skeletons come out of closet. You learn a lot about these people you didn’t learn at the beginning of this play.”

Doris Roberts in Unusual Acts of Devotion.

Doris Roberts in Unusual Acts of Devotion.

The other tenants are portrayed by five-time Emmy Award-winner Doris Roberts (Everybody Loves Raymond), Emmy winner Richard Thomas (The Waltons) and Tony Award-winner Harriet Harris (La Jolla Playhouse’s Cry Baby).

“They are all amazing. The best of the best,” Manganiello said. “Doris is hysterical. I spend a lot of time with Doris in rehearsal and during the show. My gosh, I laugh all day. That woman is hysterical. She’s going to slay the audience.”

While this is the first time with this cast ensemble, it is not the first time Manganiello has worked on Unusual Acts of Devotion. He originated the role of Leo during a staged reading at the Ojai Playwrights Conference last year. And while he could not join the cast for the World Premiere at the Philadelphia Theatre Company later that year – “I was offered the part in Philadelphia, but I couldn’t do it because I was working on One Tree Hill at the time” – he made it very clear to the producers and the playwright that we wanted to be involved in future incarnations of the show.

His previous relationship was both a plus and a minus. The show had been edited and shortened from its original version. “All of the story and all of the plot is still there,” Manganiello said. Regardless, he was still able to revive a few of the original lines, with the help of Thomas who performed with the Philadelphia cast.

“The two of us spent the first few weeks of rehearsal pitching our ideas for putting old dialog back in,” he said. “We actually won a few of those. There are some beautiful moments and beautiful poetry that did get put back in.”

One of his favorite quotes is one of those lines he added back in. “There is a point where I put on some Giuseppe Di Stefano music,” he said. “The line is: ‘There is nothing like Italian voices singing Italian music. Especially about a broken heart. We know the broken heart.’ As an Italian, it’s just true. I don’t know why, it’s just true.”

To see Manganiello’s love – and devotion – catch him performing at the La Jolla Playhouse. Unusual Acts of Devotion plays through June 28.

Unusual Acts of Devotion
Presented by the La Jolla Playhouse
Now through June 28
Tickets: $30-$65

2910 La Jolla Village Drive
(Located on the UCSD Campus via the Revelle Entrance)
Box Office: (858) 550-1010
Online: lajollaplayhouse.com

3 Comments

  1. Sam

    June 5, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    This is so cool. My girlfriend is a huge fan of One Tree Hill, and I always watch How I Met Your Mother. It will be awesome to see Mr. Manganiello perform in person!

  2. Byron H

    June 5, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Doris Roberts, Richard Thomas and Joe all in one show? I would see the play if it just had one of them performing in it. Having all three is a special treat for San Diego. I am ordering my tickets now. Good night, John Boy.

  3. Waltraud Billingsly

    February 2, 2011 at 4:44 am

    Very good written information. It will be supportive to anyone who utilizes it, including yours truly :). Keep doing what you are doing – looking forward to more posts.

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