Raul Esparza’s Formula: The Actor Has the Brains to Play Stoppard

“Sex is a huge factor because the play is proposing that every random encounter that you have with another human being can change your life,” he said. “You just don’t know how it will happen. It’s all about attraction. Mathematical attraction. Magnetic attraction. Physical attraction. Sexual attraction. In the second act, when everything’s going really fast, the two eras are sort of banging against each other, and David”–Mr. Leveaux, the director–“kept talking about, ‘This is actually an example of the math that we’re talking about: atoms in motion, bodies bouncing off walls and space and lines going at once.'”

I’ll pause here to note that it had become frustrating to listen to Mr. Esparza talk about these things–sexual attraction, simultaneity, a search for meaning–when I had previously promised his press representatives that I would under no circumstances ask him about his personal life. His personal life now seemed relevant.

In late 2006, just before the opening of Company, Mr. Esparza told The New York Times that while he was still married to his wife, his high-school sweetheart, whom he married at 23 and whom he called in that interview his best friend, he was also separated from her and romantically involved with a man. It was a surprisingly frank revelation, and he discussed it with his characteristic thoughtfulness, puzzling through his sexual identity on the front page of the Arts & Leisure section. Mr. Esparza and his wife are still separated, and they are apparently still close, photographed together as recently as last month.

But I try to be a man of my word, which means I did not ask about his personal life. (This may also mean I’m bad at playing the reporter.) I asked if he regretted giving that interview four years ago.

“What I regret about the interview with The Times is that I ended up hurting people, people who had absolutely no business having their names in the paper or being put in that position,” he said. This, presumably, is why such matters are now forbidden. “I regret that. I regret the feeling that I owed explanations about myself to people who didn’t know me.” His empty plate had been cleared, and Mr. Esparza was playing with the wrapper from his soft-drink straw, rolling it up between his fingers.

“I do not regret being who I am, being as open as I’ve been,” he continued. He was actually being simultaneously–Arcadianly?–open and, via his publicist, closed. “And I am proud of myself for not apologizing for it. I don’t fit into any of the boxes that so many petty-minded little motherfuckers love to put me in, and I don’t really care.” He did not talk about his current romantic life.

But Mr. Esparza kept talking about other things, thinking about the ideas in the play, thinking about the theater, discussing ideas. He was lingering over coffee, relishing a day off. He condemned the contemporary fascination with actors’ personal lives. He worried about the state of Broadway, with high ticket prices and the reliance on big names and the difficulty of getting good new work produced.

He talked about seeing the initial New York production of Arcadia 15 years ago, and how clearly he recalled Robert Sean Leonard’s performance in
the role Mr. Esparza is now playing.

“I remember him so vividly that what I’m conscious of is trying not to repeat what he did,” Mr. Esparza said. “But I remember–I think he was on the floor at one point, which has led me to want to be on the floor. Because I also like that quotation.”

Of course he does. These things–so many things–all exist at once.

Raul Esparza’s Formula: The Actor Has the Brains to Play Stoppard