Actor Feels Closer to Home At Theater Exile

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By Cassie Hepler

Pearce Bunting is no stranger to Philadelphia.

In the 1920’s, his grandfather was an amateur actor at Theater Exile who was in plays when his mother was a little girl.

ACTOR Pearce Bunting takes a break outside Plays and Players Theater, 1714 Delancey Place, while practicing his role as George for Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” running through Sunday, May 17, 2015. Photo by Cassie Hepler

ACTOR Pearce Bunting takes a break outside Plays and Players Theater, 1714 Delancey Place, while practicing his role as George for Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” running through Sunday, May 17, 2015. Photo by Cassie Hepler

“When I walk in, I say, ‘Hi, Dops,” he said, referring to his grandfather’s nickname. “I read these old newspaper reviews from this art section I found and he only played leading roles. I never knew my grandparents so it’s a special joy from any other theater.”

Born in Bryn Mawr on the Main Line, he went to Haverford reluctantly but soon found his passion in acting there.

“And instead of going to college, I went to Colorado and freaked out for a year. Then I went to New York for the summer and did the bohemian thing. I returned to People’s Light & Theater Company in Malvern where it all began,” he said.

“I lived in South Philly for 10 years where I met my wife (TV producer for Bizzare Foods with Andrew Zimmer) and we now live in Minneapolis (her hometown) with our 10 year old son,” he said. “I travel back to Philly every year to work with Theatre Exile.”

Bunting will be playing the embittered George opposite his increasingly verbally volatile wife, Martha, in Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” at Plays and Players Theater (1714 Delancey Place) running through Sunday, May 17, 2015.

Theatre Exile ends their 18th season with the “Boardwalk Empire” actor’s presence who relates well to his character.

“There’s so many layers to this character,” he said. “I hope to get myself in this liquid and lucid enough place to explore (the character).”

“I am now 23 years sober and spent a long time in my life filled with a lot of self-loathing and was not as fearless,” he laments. “I regret not following all the way through and covering it up with booze and drugs.”

“It all seemed acceptable – the things people do,” he said. “I was wild and unpredictable and people loved me for that but in all actuality I was being predictable and finding myself isolated. I can readily relate to George.”

“If you’re smart like George is and see things for the way they really are – reckless and impulsive – the way it truly is…” he starts. “But Martha is different than she really is.”

The plotline starts with Martha inviting guests over late at night for specific reasons and “the night runs away with itself and things are revealed.”

“It’s happened to me in my life,” he said. “It’s the truth. I like a wicked and fun sense of humor. Everyone who works at Theater Exile has a wicked humor, huge hearts and do things that most people would sweep under the rug.”

Director Joe Canuso and Bunting tend to find things that “are inevitable… I know, I can feel it coming,” he said. “This is one of those, the biggest one maybe. I never thought of doing this before.”

“I hope people enjoy being a little uncomfortable sitting in the living room with us,” he said while grinning.

Pearce Bunting joins the cast with Catharine Slusar, Emilie Krause and Jake Blouch while ruthlessly tearing down the façade of the American family. The show runs for a total of 32 performances through Sunday, May 17, 2015. Tickets are on sale now for $10 to $40 at www.theatreexile.org or by phone (215) 218-4022.

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