Size Does Matter

Robert Persichini's considerable height always has a dramatic effect

TRICK OR TREAT by Jean Marc Dalpé, directed by Ken Gass, with Ari Cohen, Kyle Horton, Matthew MacFadzean, Earl Pastko and Robert Persichini. Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst). Opens tonight (Thursday, October 4) and runs to November 4, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday 4 pm and Sunday 2 pm. $20-$28, Sunday pwyc or $20 advance. 416-504-9971.

Don’t mess with Robert Persichini. At 6-foot-3, he is a big, substantial man. The actor’s size is a quality he’s put to use onstage as the neurotically dangerous house detective Harold in Communicating Doors and in one of his most memorable roles, Live With It’s Kenneth Halliwell, lover and later murderer of playwright Joe Orton.

But there’s an innocence and sensitivity that Persichini brings to roles, too, qualities that seems to make him small in scale and gentle. That magical transformation happened when he played Hagar Shipley’s under-appreciated son Marvin in a stage adaptation of The Stone Angel.

“It helps to get a physical picture of my characters in my head in order to create them. I saw Marvin as quite slight. He’s a hesitant boy who grew up in deprived circumstances,” recalls Persichini. “In one scene I played him at age six, all gawky arms and legs.

“People later told me he was the biggest friggin’ six-year-old they’d ever seen, but they didn’t quibble with my characterization,” he smiles winningly.

He has a very different vision for Montreal gangster Ray, the small-time hood he plays in Jean Marc Dalpé’s Trick Or Treat, the season opener at Factory.

“In my mind, he’s Tony Soprano-ish, close to me in physical appearance,” offers Persichini, who spent two years at the Shaw Festival and three at Stratford in addition to performing works by Michel Tremblay, George F. Walker and Daniel MacIvor.

Though he’s only in one scene, Persichini’s Ray helps set the tone of a world that’s twisted askew by unspoken demands and hidden agendas.

“I see Ray as a guy who runs errands for his bosses — picking up and delivering packages,” says Persichini, folding a napkin into a complex geometric pattern.

“He’s not big-time, not a hit man. But trying to turn his life around and taking a chance gets him into trouble.

“Jean Marc has given us lots to work with. There’s so much subtext that it’s hard to select what to play. The writing is elastic. It can be played small and filmic or opened right up and performed almost presentationally.”

Persichini holds his long arms out, encompassing what seems to be a third of the room.”That’s the span we can use. Now we’re finding out where we are in it.”

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