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Actor Anthony Heald amazed at changes in Pittsburgh since he filmed 'The Silence of the Lambs'

Shirley McMarlin
| Sunday, March 11, 2018, 9:00 p.m.
Actor Anthony Heald has returned to Pittsburgh to star in Pittsburgh Public Theater's production of 'Heisenberg,' almost 30 years after filming 'The Silence of the Lambs' in the city.
Actor Anthony Heald has returned to Pittsburgh to star in Pittsburgh Public Theater's production of 'Heisenberg,' almost 30 years after filming 'The Silence of the Lambs' in the city.

A series of fortunate events drew actor Anthony Heald back to Pittsburgh almost 30 years after he filmed “The Silence of the Lambs” in the city.

There was a play he wanted to do and some relatives his wife wanted to visit.

His wife's cousin is Dr. Torin Finkel, director of the Aging Institute of UPMC Senior Services.

“She said, ‘See if you can find a job in Pittsburgh, so we can visit Torin and (his wife) Beth,” says Heald, a noted stage, television and film actor who lives in Oregon, where he frequently performs with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

His agent checked with Pittsburgh Public Theater, which offered Heald a leading role in British playwright Simon Stephens' “Heisenberg,” running through April 8 in the O'Reilly Theater downtown.

He'd seen a production of the play in New York and is acquainted with director Tracy Brigden. He'd also seen Robin Abramson, his “Heisenberg” love interest, in an off-Broadway production of “Shadowlands,” and admired her work.

Signing on was a no-brainer.

Laughs and tears

Heald is playing Alex, an inhibited, retired Irishman who encounters Abramson's character, Georgie, a 40-something, American free spirit.

“She pushes him off his cement slab, so to speak,” Heald says. “(The play) is about developing love and taking risks. It's a funny, funny play. There are a lot of tears, but it's very satisfying.”

The play's title refers to German physicist Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics that, simply put, says nothing has a definite position, a definite trajectory or a definite momentum.

“As applied by the playwright, it refers to the vast number of outcomes a new relationship can have,” according to a release.

Match made in heaven

“It's completely a match made in heaven,” Heald says. “I feel as if I've won the lottery. The other cast members are wonderful and (costume designer and outgoing Public Theater artistic director) Ted Pappas is the most gracious, supportive, creative person.

“This is one of a handful of the best theater experiences I've had,” says Heald, a Tony Award nominee and Obie Award winner who has been acting professionally for 51 years, with credits including “Boston Legal” and “Boston Public” on television and numerous films including “The Silence of the Lambs” and its prequel, “Red Dragon.”

Heald says he's also enjoying the chance to explore Pittsburgh this time around, something he couldn't do while playing Dr. Frederick Chilton opposite Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter.

“What I remember is coming over the bridge and through the tunnel and seeing that magnificent first view of the city,” he says. “We shot at Soldiers & Sailors and in some old, abandoned factory. What I remember is riding around in a van and seeing the inside of a trailer. I didn't see much.

“Back then I had this notion of a rundown steel town, but even then, it was a jewel of a city,” he says. “Twenty-eight years later, the changes are just amazing.”

Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5750, or via Twitter @shirley_trib.

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