Mr. Office Space Meets Neil LaBute

It somehow doesn’t come as a surprise that Ron Livingston is the kind of celebrity that takes the subway. Last week, the amiable 39-year-old actor rode the No. 6 train downtown, straight from rehearsing the new Neil LaBute play, In a Dark, Dark House, an MCC Theater production which starts previews at the Lucille Lortel Theater today. He rounded the corner of Great Jones Street without fanfare—just another cute dude (albeit one with a particularly photogenic jaw line and thick, tousled, practically McDreamy-like hair) in jeans and a faded T-shirt.

For someone who has starred in two of the more culty and quotable movies of the late 90’s—Swingers and Office Space—not to mention having carried the dubious distinction of being known to a majority of the female population as Jack Berger (a.k.a. that guy who broke up with Carrie on a Post-It note) on the sixth season of Sex and the City, Mr. Livingston is not big on Hollywood pretenses. When it came time to choose a table at the Five Points restaurant, he opted for the one outside on the sidewalk. He picked tap water, ordered a beer and offered to share his soft-shell crab appetizer. He answered questions readily, if carefully, his distinctive speech cadences part chilled-out Wilson brother, part nice-guy Midwesterner (he was raised in Marion, Iowa). If he noticed the double takes of the people passing by, he didn’t let on (“Most of the people you would call my fans are all cooler than me,” he said) and didn’t seem particularly perturbed when a man stopped short at the table with a rather abrupt “Hey, you look familiar—who are you?”

“I’m Ron,” said Mr. Livingston, reaching across to shake hands. “Ron Livingston.”

“How do I know you?”

“Hmmmm. You may be … you’re either watching Sprint commercials”—he’s the face of the recent Sprint Nextel “Power up” campaign­—“or Office Space.” The stranger on the sidewalk continued to stare at him blankly. Mr. Livingston tried again, “Sex and the City, maybe?”

“Oh, I thought you were someone I worked with at the music business.”

“Oh, no—I wish I had that gift,” the actor said evenly.

“Oh, wait!” the man on the sidewalk said, growing excited. “You’re that guy. Wait. What commercial is it again?

“The Sprint commercial, maybe?”

“Are you the guy who says, ‘Can you hear me now?’”

“Nope, not that one,” Mr. Livingston said. “A different one. Good guess, though.” The man took off, walking a few paces before turning around and yelling back, “Oh, now I know. O.K.!”

Unruffled, Mr. Livingston went back to studying his menu. “It was a good guess,” he said again, softly.

“There’s just this very inviting quality to him. There’s something about Ron that makes you sort of go, ‘I like that guy,’” said Neil LaBute. “He seems like a guy you could know or wish you were friends with. He’s a perfect example of the secret weapon that actors have, which is themselves. That people just like them.”

Mr. Office Space Meets Neil LaBute