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Darrell Hammond: Being 'Tru' to Capote

Darrell Hammond stars as Truman Capote in Bay

Darrell Hammond stars as Truman Capote in Bay Street Theatre's production of "Tru." Photo Credit: Jerry Lamonica

Darrell Hammond, who holds the "Saturday Night Live" longevity record -- he was a regular on the show from 1995 to 2009 -- gets to play just one character for a change at Sag Harbor's Bay Street Theatre.

But what a character. "Tru" won both a Tony and an Emmy for Robert Morse, who played the deliciously eccentric Truman Capote in the 1990 one-man show that he reprised for PBS' "American Playhouse" in 1992.

Capote, who owned a home in Sag Harbor and scattered his partner's ashes along the waterfront there, is depicted alone and feeling lonesome in his UN Plaza apartment. In a conversation with himself imagined by author Jay Presson Allen, Capote, who died in 1984, ruminates about his up-and-down career and his life of tortured romance and regrets, easing his pain with prescription drugs, cocaine, vodka and chocolate truffles.

With his own history of rehab, Hammond, 55, can relate.

But Hammond says he has steering clear of impersonation. "It's very tempting," he admitted during a phone interview while he was being driven to a game at Yankee Stadium. "Usually, I concentrate on gestures and voice," says the "SNL" alum best known for his impressions of Bill Clinton, Dick Cheney and Donald Trump, among about 100 others. "It's been challenging to present someone in a realistic way. I've had to curb my instincts."

ONE-ON-ONE DIRECTION "She's the real deal," Hammond says of director Judith Ivey. "Being a great actor herself gives her an understanding of what I'm going through alone out there -- from the artifacts in the house to what it all means to my character."

"Tru" is Hammond's third role for Bay Street, having played a clueless bailiff in David Mamet's outrageous comedy "Romance" last summer and a psychotic therapist in Christopher Durang's "Beyond Therapy" in 2008.

This will be his first dramatic role for Bay Street.

JUGGLING SHOWS But Hammond hasn't had the luxury of concentrating exclusively on Capote. After President Barack Obama released his birth certificate, Hammond got a call from Lorne Michaels asking him to play The Donald in a new "SNL" skit that morphed into a ramble about Osama bin Laden and "The Apprentice."

"After rehearsing Truman all day, it was quite a switch to play it so broad, doing Trump," says Hammond. "I didn't have a lot of time, but it's like being a field-goal kicker who comes in after sitting on the bench the whole game. It's like I never left."

WHAT "Tru," by Jay Presson Allen, starring Darrell Hammond

WHEN | WHERE Previews 8 p.m. Tuesday through next Friday, official opening June 4. Through June 26 at Bay Street Theatre, Sag Harbor

INFO $55-$65, baystreet.org, 631-725-9500

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