To many of us, he’s the frenetic observational genius with a white hot wit Sean Spencer on USA’s Psych. It’s a good thing to be. As an admitted addict of USA’s original programming, I count on those characters to help me blow off steam after a long day of the intensity we call every day life in the City of Angels. But I have to admit to being surprised (and more than a little excited) when I found out that James Roday was about to hit a local stage right here on theater row to perform a play with the theater company he founded (Red Dog Squadron).
Extinction, a play written by a classmate (Gabe McKinley) of James’ from his NYU days, is the story of two college friends on a wild trip to Atlantic City, a place they go to descend into their favorite vices with dark abandon. But on this particular trip, something is different and results in a high stakes showdown between friends. Co-staring with him is a close friend, Michael Weston, an actor who has been on many of the best shows on television from Six Feet Under to House.
I had the opportunity to speak with James and found out what I couldn’t discover with a little Google stalking. My first question when confronted with someone having the courageousness to do theater in a city notoriously unappreciative of the medium is always about the dangers of that endeavor. But he was unphased by it. Red Dog Squadron was something he created as a way to keep himself anchored in the place that first made him want to pursue a creative life. It was also a means to do all the theater he didn’t get to do between college and a fully formed career. Like many actors coming out of school, he expected to pay his dues doing stage work while bartending to pay the bills. But Hollywood came calling early on, rendering that transition unnecessary.
When asked about the state of theater in Los Angeles, he remarked, “You have to do due diligence… to find good theater.” He acknowledged that the city was full of bad theater, which often turns off new converts, but a savvy patron needs only do a little research to find where the high caliber theater is going down.
As for Extinction, James didn’t expect to be performing. He signed up to produce the play but as the whole process of refining the writing and casting unfolded, it became clear he should be taking on one of the two lead roles.
The production is set to open in a little over a week at the Elephant Space. Due to James’ schedule with Psych, the rehearsal period has been brief compared to what is traditional for theater. But his enthusiasm and passion, along with that of everyone involved, has a kind of insane fire to it. It’s the sweet jump off a cliff into the unknown so many artists find intoxicating. “One of us might not make it to opening night alive,” he stated. Somehow, I doubt that. It sounds like everyone is in their natural habitat with the theater-goers of Los Angeles ending up the winners as they are about to reap the benefits of creative audacity.
Performances of Extinction take place Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 7 pm, November 21 through December 13. There will be one preview performance on Friday, November 20 at 8 pm. General admission is $18.00; students (with valid ID) and seniors are $15.00. Elephant Space is located at 6322 Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood, 90038. For reservations and information, call (323) 960-7784 or go to www.plays411.com/Extinction.