Lenny at Large: 'November' arrives early

Lenny Megliola

Richard Snee, the Boston actor of high repute, had other things on his mind when the call came.

"I was in the middle of graduate school," he says.

The Lyric Stage Company of Boston called. They had chosen to do David Mamet's "November." Was Snee interested in reading for it, perhaps for the lead, Charles Smith? He was.

"He's kind of a blowhard," says Snee of Smith's character. "I think he's ultimately a likeable guy, but a jerk."

Not exactly a ringing endorsement for a president. That would be president of the United States? A likeable but jerky president? Is that possible?

"The last eight years have made that moot," says Snee.

The plot spins around Smith running for re-election and being way behind on the polls a week before Election Day.

"He thinks it's because the election committee didn't spend enough money (on his campaign)," says Snee. Meanwhile, the campaign people aren't spending because they've concluded Smith has no shot. So the low-poll president concocts an idea how he can at least get a presidential library out of the deal. It involves the turkey business. Hmm.

"November" runs through Nov. 15 at the intimate theater.

This will be Snee's seventh appearance at Lyric Stage. "November" is being directed by Danny Gidron who directed Snee in "Breaking Legs" at the long-gone Chiswick Theatre in Sudbury.

"Danny loves working with actors," says Snee. "He takes input from actors to see how an idea works."

Snee is a native of South Bend, Ind., where his father attended Notre Dame. Robert Snee's job with JC Penney had the family moving from Michigan to New Jersey to Maryland. When the Snees got to Long Island, at least Richard was able to go four years to the same high school where he'd get a whiff of the theater life.

"The school didn't have a theater program, but we did a talent show. I did impressions. Ed Sullivan. Walter Brennan. Edward G. Robinson. Nobody thought I could do it."

Snee's mother was a speech and drama major in college, and acted. That didn't have an immediate profound influence on Snee, but when he went off to Columbia University "I did take a modern drama course." Instead of writing a final paper, the teacher asked the class if it would rather do a scene instead. Snee suspects it was the teacher's way of avoiding correcting papers. For the students it was a no-brainer. "We did some scenes," says Snee.

After a year in New York, Snee moved to Boston in 1975.

"There was this girl," he says, and leaves the sentence incomplete. He got a job at the Parker House as a security guard. Six months later he was night manager.

It would get even better. That girl he followed to Boston? That ended. Hey, it happens. Snee was in a new town with a new job. A new woman had come into his life. "That's when I met Paula."

Paula Plum was the concierge at the Parker House. The year was 1977. They were married in 1980. In the early '80s, Snee worked on Boston City Council candidate Terry McDermott's campaign.

"I was always fascinated with politics," says Snee.

Plum had majored in theater at Boston University and already had a stage career going. That career has surged to the point where Plum is one of the most sought-after actors on the Boston scene. Her range is wide and vast. She can play anything, and always pulls it off.

Snee knows not to compete with his wife. When asked who's the better actor, Snee has a ready answer. "No contest. I strive to be on Paula's level." They've appeared in several plays together.

Snee started out at the Alley Theater in a 1985 production of "Lone Star," directed by Plum.

"She said, 'there's a great part for you. Do you want to do it?"' He mulled it over, and came to a decision. "I was 32. I felt, if I don't do it now I'll never do it. I'm glad I did."

He went right to an A.E. Gurney play after that. He'd found his calling. Off and on, since 1987, Snee's been in the never-ending "Shear Madness" at the Charles St. Playhouse.

Busy actors that they are ("Paula works more than anyone I've ever met"), Snee and Plum are constantly running lines with each other. When they were on vacation in August, Snee brought the "November" script with him because the Charles Smith character has so many lines. "The guy never leaves the stage."

All Snee initially knew about the play was that Nathan Lane played the president on Broadway.

Snee found time to take up playwrighting at Boston University. He says going back to the classroom "after being out of school for a third of a century wasn't easy."

Here's what is easy: How Richard Snee turns a role - any role - into vibrant virtuosity. Shoot, he might even being sneaking up on Paula.

"November" will be performed Oct. 17 though Nov. 15 at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston, 140 Clarendon St. Tickets are $25-$50 and are available through or by calling 617-585-5678.

Lenny Megliola is a Daily News columnist. His e-mail is