Matthew and Adam Arkin finally share a stage in O.C.
Arkin brothers appear together at SCR fest
Matthew Arkin bears a family resemblance to both his brother Adam and his father Alan, and he was blessed with their talent. But he took a more circuitous route to acting than they did.
Although he was thoroughly involved in the family business as a child – their father, one of the most in-demand character actors in film during the late 1960s and early '70s, featured Adam and Matthew in an award-winning short when they were children – Matthew decided on a different path.
"I did something else after college: I went to law school and practiced law for five years," said Arkin, 51. "I was the more academically oriented member of the family – I don't mean smarter, but more comfortable with institutional learning.
"I think I always wanted to be an actor, but I had a curiosity about other things."
Arkin eventually realized that acting was in his blood and began a successful career, mostly in New York, as a theater actor.
Three decades later, Arkin will appear on stage with his brother for the first time during a reading of "The Prince of Atlantis" at South Coast Repertory's Pacific Playwrights Festival. It takes place once: Friday at 1 p.m.
Steven Drukman's play concerns two brothers, Joey and Kevin.
Joey is a successful businessman; he runs a large seafood wholesale business. His brother Kevin is a lifelong loser and fragile soul. But their fortunes begin to change when Joey goes to jail just as his long-lost son turns up.
Matthew Arkin plays Kevin. Adam, who's almost four years older, plays Joey.
"He hasn't done anything with his life," Arkin said of Kevin, his character. "He smoked a lot of pot and works in his brother's warehouse. His brother is all business; Kevin is more of an artistic type. He wanted to be a writer but had a nervous breakdown in college. He's really just been in a low-grade funk and self-medicating since then."
Arkin doesn't describe the brothers' intertwined fates as a reversal of fortune. "Not that so much – I would say it's a change of emotional and spiritual health. Kevin is finally able to come into his own in a way that he hasn't before. But it's not at his brother's expense, which is one of the things I like about the play."
Arkin thinks he and his brother will bring a lot of between-the-lines subtext to the fraternal relationship.
"I'm really looking forward to getting into this with Adam. There's so much that's there already, of course, that we don't have to work on."
Arkin warned that he and his brother don't share a lot of stage time in "The Prince of Atlantis."
"In fact, (the brothers') relationship, in terms of face-to-face time, isn't the predominant dynamic in the play. Joey's in prison. There's a scene at the beginning and one at the end of the play where we talk to each other. But mostly we're interacting with others."
DAD'S ADVICE: DON'T TRY SO HARD
The brothers Arkin launched their careers in their father's 1968 film. "It was a short piece that my father wrote and directed called 'People Soup,'" Arkin said. "It was released in theaters. This was back in the days when they showed short subjects before the features."
The brothers appeared together one more time in Stanford, Conn., where their father directed them in a play at a regional theater in 1976.
"But that's it," Arkin said. "This will be the first time we've worked together in more than 30 years."
Adam and Matthew were scheduled to star in Simon Mendes da Costa's comedy, "Losing Louie," at Manhattan Theatre Club in 2006, but Adam's schedule got busy and he had to pull out of the project.
Matthew Arkin and his brother have followed different career paths. Adam has been a regular on episodic television for two decades ("Northern Exposure," "Chicago Hope," "Monk," "Sons of Anarchy"). Matthew has concentrated on stage roles. He was last seen at SCR in 2009, when he appeared in the world premiere production of Richard Greenberg's "Our Mother's Brief Affair."
Arkin said his father always encouraged his sons to follow their dreams, whether or not they led to acting. "He didn't push us one way or the other; he let us make our own decisions."
But his dad was also an invaluable acting mentor, Arkin said.
"What I learned from him is the same thing that Uta Hagen was always trying to teach me in her acting class, which is to stop acting. Don't try so hard.
"It's a really tough thing to get to the point that you let yourself just be on stage. But when you get it, you know it's right."
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