Krystin Pellerin and Gregory Prest in You Can’t Take It With You, courtesy of Soulpepper Theatre Company.
“What is this strange feeling that I’m feeling?” says Canadian actor Gregory Prest, who’s trying to describe the foreign emotion that’s washed over him lately during rehearsals for Soulpepper Theatre Company’s production of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s You Can’t Take It With You. Then it hits him. “Oh, love!” he blurts out, laughing.
It’s not that Prest— a National Theatre School grad who hails from Pictou, Nova Scotia—is incapable of displaying emotion. In fact, he’s as affable and charming in person as he is tortured and conflicted on stage—well at least going by the menacing and dark roles he’s taken up in recent Soulpepper productions. “I never get to play this sort of thing, somebody other than a tortured or dying young artist,” he tells me one morning in the lobby of the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto’s Distillery District. “It’s wonderful.”
Getting ready to take the stage when the show opens Thursday night, Prest leaves behind the messy and despairing worlds of playwrights Eugene O’Neill and Henrik Ibsen that he’s been living in lately, for one of a romantic comedy, no less. Prest stars as Tony Kirby, the dashing businessman who falls for his lovely secretary, Alice Sycamore, who hails from a family of eccentric and endearing characters. It’s also a role venerated in the 1938 film by a dapper young Jimmy Stewart. “I try not to think about it,” says Prest about inheriting the part from the legendary American actor. “But I kind of love that legacy; knowing who’s played the role. It’s sort of comforting, I don’t find it daunting, I find it exciting.”
With five shows on the bill this year—The Crucible and The Royal Comedians opening this summer—Prest has ironed out a pretty solid schedule to make it through the rest of the season: “Reading, reading, reading and making schedules to clean out the closet in my apartment.”
You Can’t Take It With You is on now at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts at 55 Mill St., Building 49. For tickets, call 416-866-8666 or visit soulpepper.ca.