He's a big loser in love on one of the biggest TV comedies (The Office). But Orange County's own David Denman, who plays Roy, the odd man out in the love triangle that helped fuel The Office's popularity, gets one of the Great Alpha Male roles in Shakespeare Orange County's ongoing production of The Taming of The Shrew.
He's Petruchio, the swaggering, cocksure braggart who insults, smacks, starves and basically tames the titular shrew, Kate. By play's end, the sleep-deprived, abused Kate (played by Long Beach state graduate Katie A. Keane) is apparently broken and delivers one of the most contested monologues in Shakespeare's canon:
Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign . . .
Such duty as the subject owes the prince,
Even such a woman oweth to her husband
And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour
And not obedient to his honest will,
What is she but a foul contending rebel?
Plenty of ways to play that scene: recalcitrant, defiant, sincere. None of them makes everyone happy.
But for Denman, who returns to the stage after six years of fairly steady film and TV work, it's pretty simple. "You can put whatever social or political slant you want on it, but at the end of the day, it's a romantic comedy about two interesting, flawed people who find each other," says Denman, who began acting at Fountain Valley High School and Orange Coast College before studying at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and the Juilliard School in New York City. "I don't think it's a statement on how every relationship should be, but it's definitely the relationship between these two.
"No one's ever shown Kate a different way to be, and suddenly this man comes along, and as much as he infuriates her, he's also a way out because no one has ever talked to her or treated her this way. So I don't think he's being a brute to break her spirit, but holding up a mirror and showing her that she doesn't have to be in this space of shrewishness she's chosen."
The fact the guy who played Roy on the The Officepossesses a smidgen of sensitivity toward woman should amuse fans of the series.Though not one of the show's main characters, Roy is indispensable to a chief plot thrust of the first three seasons: the frustratingly halting relationship between his co-workers, Jim and Pam. As Pam's insensitive, boorish boyfriend, contrasted with the sweetly cute and puppy-dog-like Jim, Roy is easy to dislike, if not hate.
Though there are similarities between Petruchio and Roy in their self-centeredness and penchant for acting out (Roy lobs shot glasses in a bar; Petruchio tears Kate's new dress into shreds), there's an important distinction: "Unlike Roy, whom I don't think anyone was rooting for to stay with Pam, if the audience isn't rooting for Petruchio and Kate to get together by the end of [Shrew],then something in the play isn't working," Denman said.
Playing the lead must feel strange for Denman. Though he's had steady work since choosing to pursue film and TV full-time six years ago (Skip the Demon on Angel, roles in three upcoming feature films), it's all been supporting. But that doesn't mean the 33-year-old Denman doesn't still dream of the marquee.
"I would absolutely love to have the opportunity to play a role like Seth Rogen's in Knocked Up, and I hope the right project comes along," he said. "I know a lot of things have to happen for that. But that's what I still want and strive for. Any actor worth his salt wants the biggest, juiciest roles he can get, and if you resign yourself to not playing interesting, exciting roles, you might as well open a dry cleaner's."
Taming of the Shrew at the Festival Amphitheatre, 310 Main St., Garden Grove, (714) 744-7016; shakespeareoc.org. Thurs.-Sat., 8:15 p.m. Through July 28. $27-$29.