Surf and Sondheim: what’s going on in Josh Radnor’s mind


Speaking with actor Josh Radnor, now Off Broadway star in “The Babylon Line,” is a discursive experience, his conversation interspersed with enthusiastic references to books, movies and music. Here are a few, in alphabetical order, that he praised recently.

1.) by Ayad Akhtar “American Dervish”: Mr. Radnor described this first novel, about a Muslim boy who grew up in Milwaukee in the 1980s, as “phenomenal”. He wrote Mr. Akhtar a fan letter, “then we had coffee and talked for hours and became friends, and the next thing I knew was I was playing his play. [the Pulitzer Prize-winning ‘Disgraced’]. I didn’t even know he was a playwright. I just thought he was a novelist.

2.) Cloud cult: If you haven’t heard this “insanely Midwestern band”, Mr. Radnor suggests starting with “The Meaning of 8” or “Feel Good Ghosts”. He made an hour-long movie, “The searcher”, with them last year. “If your favorite band calls up and says, ‘Do you want to come to Wisconsin for two weeks and do a silent movie adapted to our album?’ then I say, ‘Yeah, I totally want to do this.’ “

3.) that of William Finnegan “Barbarian days: a surfer’s life”: Mr. Radnor tends to read several books at once, “which is actually a problem”, and he was still in the middle of this brief. “It’s a lot about surfing, which strangely obsesses me without knowing how to do it right at all.” He must have learned a few years ago for Jill Soloway’s film “Afternoon Delight”. Now he said, “I just like to sit and watch. There is something so meditative about it.

4.) Alberto Moravia” Sheep ” : This 1954 Italian novel makes a cameo appearance in “Babylon Line,” which the unfortunate central character, Aaron, played by Mr. Radnor, mentions to the flirtatious Joan, played by Elizabeth Reaser. “It’s very dark and quite wonderful,” Mr. Radnor said. “And you can see how that informs Aaron and even Joan’s ideas about masculinity, marriage, and suffocation.”

5.) Lonny price “The best worst thing that ever could have happened”: “It’s a documentary on ‘Merrily We Roll Along’, the original production in 1981, the Sondheim that was a huge flop.” The actors “were between 16 and 25 years old, playing middle aged people who are aging back. Now, they’re all in their fifties, and they’re looking back at this thing that they thought was that didn’t happen, and it kind of follows how it affected them. You must see it. It is so beautiful.”

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