Playing a Dog and Hen (Who Fall in Love)

Andrew Garman and Teresa Avia Lim. Photos by Joe Chea

Andrew Garman and Teresa Avia Lim. Photos by Joe Chea

The actors behind the animals in The Moors

Welcome to Building Character, our ongoing look at actors and how they create their roles.

How do you play a massive mastiff – one with a tender heart, cosmic curiosity, and killer instincts? Or how about a dubious moorhen who, despite her typical caution in life, has fallen for someone outside her species?

Those peculiar questions are facing Andrew Garman and Teresa Avia Lim, who play the aforementioned animals in the Playwrights Realm production of Jen Silverman's dark comedy The Moors. (The show is running through March 25 at the Duke on 42nd Street.)

Asked about the process of playing a large dog, Garman says, "Being six-foot-two helps a lot." It was helpful, too, that he grew up with a big mutt: "Shelby, who was a very large chow mix, was territorial, loyal, and pretty much a homebody. He was a noble dog."

However, he adds, "the dog aspect of the [nameless mastiff in the play] is less the priority. It's more about the character: the giant heart of the dog and the search for love and meaning and God and all those difficult questions. It feels all-encompassing. He feels the weight of all dogs and all human beings and the weight of the world."

The mastiff is dressed in 19th century garb – "and not anything necessarily 'dog-like,'" Garman notes – by costume designer Anita Yavich. "There's an interesting overlap between the physical world that we're building, which sort of allows for dog postures. But you won't know immediately that it's a dog on that set."

That's evident in the opening scene, when the mastiff passively lays off to the side in the parlor while taking in everything that's happening in the scene.