1983 Viral? Revisit Reagan’s Grenada Invasion in “Halcyon Days”

And a brief introduction to actor Tom Paolino, who plays Eddie.

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Tom Paolino, Rand Guerrero in "Halcyon Days." Photo: Gerry Goodstein.

I overheard someone on the subway last month use the phrase “usual New York actor.” It lodged in my head, this improbable idea: “usual New York actor.” Given the intestinal fortitude needed to learn one’s craft and the linebacker-like shoulder power needed to push one’s way into such an ever-roiling industry, I’d counter that just being an actor is unusual. Most actors have more dare in their duodenum than the rest of have in our spleen.

Check out one such example, the talented and charismatic Tom Paolino:

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Paolino is now appearing in the New York premiere of the play Halcyon Days by Steven Dietz, running through March 25 at the Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre at the A.R.T./New York Theatres (502 W. 53rd St.) and marking the 20th season of Off-Broadway’s Oberon Theatre Ensemble. The actor plays a senator who battles his conscience as his colleagues try to convince him to publicly support a cause he disagrees with. Paolino studied under the great Sanford Meisner, has acted in several films and has worked extensively as a director.

Per the press materials, Halcyon Days is a “shrewd satire exploring what it took to get America behind the 1983 invasion of the western hemisphere’s smallest country, Grenada. The play asks a question that, for those of us who remember 1983, seems awfully quaint:

What did it mean to go “viral” before social media?

Halcyon Days is directed by Alexander Dinelaris, who is a great get: he won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for his screenplay of Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). He is also co-creator and executive producer of the series The One Percent for Starz.

For tickets to Halcyon Days, click here.

And now, questions Tom Paolino has never been asked:

What’s the most perceptive question anyone has asked you about your work?

“Why do you want to be an actor?””

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What’s the most idiotic question anyone has asked you about your work?

“Will you work non-union?”

What’s the weirdest question anyone has asked you about your work?

How do you memorize all those lines?

Which character do you play? If someone asked you to identify three attributes of your character that are similar to you, and three attributes that are different, what would they be?

I play Eddie. Similar: hopeful, loving, fun. Different: cynical, neglectful, violent.

Before being cast in Halcyon Days, what was your memory, if any, of the 1983 invasion of Granada? After all, 35 years can do a lot to one’s perception of news and history. And as the rehearsals have begun and play has come together, what questions have you had for either the playwright or director as to the historical context — or how your character fits into it?

I remember the reassuring tone of Reagan’s voice when he said, “…we got there just in time.”

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As the rehearsals have begun and play has come together, what questions have you had for either the playwright or director as to the historical context — or how your character fits into it?

I wanted to know if Eddie is based on a real person. Also, I wanted to know if we could run the Jefferson Memorial scene at the memorial itself, which we ultimately did.

The press materials call the invasion of Granada “America’s first public relations war.” In your view, is America’s approach to foreign policy — strictly from a PR viewpoint — more or less sophisticated or cunning than it was back in 1983?

With the advent of technology, it is definitely more sophisticated. Watching video of “Shock and Awe” brought things to a new level, but the images weren’t as graphic as the anticipation leading up to the videos themselves.