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Arts Desk

From '2001: A Space Odyssey' to the Bucks County Playhouse

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Actor Keir Dullea played the lead role in Stanley Kubrik's 1968 epic science fiction film. He's starring in On Golden Pond at the Bucks County Playhouse from July 10 - August 2, 2015.

Where has actor Keir Dullea been since he was blasted into the cosmos in the classic film, 2001: A Space Odyssey? Chances are at a theater nearby, in roles you wouldn't expect, often opposite his wife Mia Dillon. They're starring in On Golden Pond at the Bucks County Playhouse from July 10 to August 2, 2015. The Philadelphia Inquirer's David Patrick Stearns tracked them down in a New York rehearsal studio.

David Patrick Stearns: Keir Dullea, gone tomorrow. That's the quip that came from Noel Coward, one of the great wits of his time, when he and Kier Dullea were introduced exactly 50 years ago. But many tomorrows later, Dullea, age 79, is taking on one of the bigger roles of his life, that of a cantankerous retired professor in On Golden Pond. The play has something that movie goers aren't used to seeing from this actor, whose film career includes playing the Marquis de Sade. And that's humor.

Keir Dullea: It's comedy and it's got a dark side, too. It kind of combines some serious underlying stuff. Fear of death, a man facing 80. How he feels about that. He jokes, he sends up his fear of death, so there are a lot of funny lines in this play.
 

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Credit Bucks County Playhouse
Real-life husband and wife, actors Mia Dillon and Keir Dullea portray a married couple in the Bucks County Playhouse production, 'On Golden Pond.'

DPS: Being married to an actress of equal calibrer at least, would seem to be a key part of the package. Mia Dillon talks about how seemingly mundane matters can make all the difference. 

Dillon: Last summer I was in Williamstown doing a play. Keir came with me, he had a great time, he was bicycling every day, but every night Keir was running lines with me, and the other actors were running lines with interns. And each day was a different intern, where you’d have to explain to them how you work and how you want the lines fed. And so we're there for each other. 

DPS: Both of them come from the kind of theatrical backgrounds that made them ready for anything. Brought up in Newtown Square, Dillon makes a career with a lot of new plays, starting with Crimes of the Heart. Educated at the George School in Bucks County, Dullea was playing major roles at an early age and did the kind of summer stock where you need to get a play up on its feet with one week's rehearsal. These two started memorizing On Golden Pond two months ago.

Dullea: I realize with this older brain of mine, with a relatively short rehearsal, my goal was to be off book by the first day of rehearsal. I'm pretty close. You can sit at home and be cute and be line perfect but when you get on your feet and you’re thinking about where am I going, they’re not quite there.

DPS: Actors with longevity often have certain things in common: Good health, of course, a certain kind of spiritual life (Dillon is a licensed acupuncturist) and absolutely no fear of comparisons with famous predecessors. With On Golden Pond, it's Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda.

Dullea: Every script you get, particularly with the theater, is a new adventure. It's yours. It's nobody else's.  
DPS: And how often do you see actors with that amount of life experience - in a role that shows all that they have to offer?