A Well-Felt Role For Nick LaMedica in TheaterWorks ‘Hand to God’

When Nick LaMedica first played the lead character of the anxiety-ridden Jason in Robert Askins’ Hand to God, his co-star, Tyrone, would often steal scenes.

But LaMedica really couldn’t complain because he was the one manipulating Tyrone, a hand-rod, Elmo-like puppet and the dangerously irreverent character in the Christian Puppet Ministry.

“There’s no opportunity to blame your scene partner for letting you down,” he says of his dual duties, adding “from a technical point of view, it’s great because I can rehearse whenever I want.”

Now he’s returning to the role in a production that Tracy Brigden will return to again direct at Hartford’s TheaterWorks. The show runs July 20 to Aug. 19.

“It can be really confusing to be in two completely different states of mind at once,” LaMedica says of the acting challenge of playing alter egos. “Tyrone is just buried deep within Jason so it’s funny to be playing things that are simultaneously coming from different places but are part of the same person.”

Does he have his own inner Tyrone?

“Mine is getting closer and closer to the surface because of the various difficulties and frustrations of living in New York City. Just go on a walk through Times Square and you’ll get a sense of my Tyrone. There’s so much to marvel at but there are so many little things that prod you and poke you that unleashes the animal inside you.”

Is he ever jealous of his more outrageous co-star?

“Yeah. It’s weird when you read a review talking about Tyrone’s performance and you’re thinking, ‘It’s me. It’s me.’ ”

First The Artful Dodger, Now Fagin For Donald Corren

Donald Corren remembers his first professional musical when, at the age of 10, his Uncle Ira took him to see a touring production of Oliver! in San Francisco, near his hometown of Stockton.

“Watching a bunch of young boys sing and dance and having a great time, it was my ‘I want to do that’ moment,” Corren says. He subsequently played the musical’s Artful Dodger in a high school production and now he has the lead as Fagin in Goodspeed Musical’s Oliver! which plays through Sept. 8.

“You have to love him,” he says of his rogue character that teaches a band of street kids to “pick a pocket or two.” “But Fagin in the [Charles Dickens] book is not particularly lovable.”

But in a musical, he says, the audience has to find something to like in a leading character. So does the actor.

“It’s his sense of humor,” Corren says, “and a sense that maybe he knows deep inside that he could be doing something better. You’ve got to touch that piece of heart in him because musicals are all about heart.”

And yes, he says, Uncle Ira will be there to see him in the starring role at Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, coming full circle, after all these years.