‘The Wolfe Twins’
Through Nov. 2
1501 14th St., N.W.
When out actor Tom Story first read Rachel Bonds’ new play “The Wolfe Twins,” he wasn’t sure exactly what it was all about, but he knew he wanted to do it.
“It was the relationships that got me,” he says. “My character has a genuine loving, relationship with his husband. He also has an intense relationship with his sister, a dynamic that’s not often explored in plays. … Gay marriage is still a newish thing. It’s great to originate a role that has that in it but isn’t solely about that. And in real life, I have one sibling — a sister. We’re very close in age. So the brother/sister relationship is meaningful to me.”
In “The Wolfe Twins” (currently making its world premiere at Studio Theatre), Story plays Lewis, a gay man who invites his tightly wound sister Dana (Birgit Happuch) on a trip to Italy hoping to reconnect. Set in the lobby of a small hotel in Rome, the play deals in confessions and discoveries. When Dana learns she was excluded from attending Lewis’ marriage to his longtime boyfriend (who has stayed behind in New York), she’s not happy. Battle ensues. Witnessing the Wolfe reunion and sharing a few of their own family intimacies are the hotel’s stoic manager Alex (Silas Gordon Brigham) and vibrant fellow traveler Raina (Jolly Abraham).
“People tell me I must be exactly like Lewis,” Story says. “I’m not, but there are similarities. We’re about the same age. I’ve lived in New York. And though I’m not married, the idea of the wedding feels personal. I can imagine how that would be beautiful to have a small wedding on a beach. I imagine Lewis didn’t invite his sister because he wanted to protect that precious part of his life from any complications.”
In 16 years of acting professionally, Story has played varied parts ranging from Katurian, the short story writer targeted by the police state in “The Pillowman” to artist Andy Warhol in “Pop!” to many roles from classical theater. He works a lot. In the last seven years, Story says, he has had about three weeks off.
In addition to acting, Story now directs. This spring, he made a strong directorial debut at Studio 2ndStage with “Moth,” Declan Greene’s play about bullying and the intensity of adolescent friendship. More recently he directed Noel Coward’s comedy “Design for Living” at the Berkshire Theatre Festival. Following “The Wolfe Twins,” Story is directing Mark O’Rowe’s “Terminus,” a Dublin-set monologue play, also at Studio 2ndStage.
Directing calls on Story to flex new and different creative muscles.
“I enjoy the wholeness of directing — figuring out the design, the casting, putting all the pieces together. I’m a big picture person. Enjoy conceptualizing. I’ve learned a lot about acting over the years and I enjoy being on the outside and helping actors make good choices. To really be a director, I need to keep doing it.”
Growing up in Northern Virginia, Story was exposed to interesting theater. He remembers seeing Woolly Mammoth productions in what to him seemed like a bombed-out building. He’s still surprised his parents let him drive their car to Studio Theater — 14th Street was an altogether dicier place then.
He attended Duke University, initially with the intention of becoming a doctor, but a week in he changed his major to drama. He graduated in three years and went on to the Juilliard School in Manhattan where he studied with Michael Kahn, artistic director at D.C.’s Shakespeare Theatre Company. Soon after finishing at Juilliard, Story earned his equity card in D.C. and has worked primarily here ever since.
“A career in theater is wonderful but challenging. You do a great play and then three months later you have to start all over again. You can be working steadily in a town’s best theaters but struggling financially. I like to say actors are the privileged poor. We get to do these all these great things, but we’re underpaid.”
Story’s partner, Chris Dinolfo, is also a busy local actor.
“We run lines, but we don’t really coach each other. That doesn’t work so well,” Story says. “But it’s good. We understand each other’s schedules. It would be weird to be with a normal non-theater person.”