(Michael Paulson’s article appeared in The New York Times, 2/3; via Pam Green.)

The moment Forest Whitaker steps onto 42nd Street, the shouting begins.

“Can I get a picture with you, please?” “One selfie? One selfie?” “You’re the best.”

It’s just three blocks from the rehearsal studio to the theater where he will be making his Broadway debut, but around him, the city is throbbing. There are blazing billboards, screaming sirens, crushing crowds.

Mr. Whitaker is trying to tune all that out. He’s been obsessing about Times Square, but the Times Square of 1928, swanky and soaring just before the big stock market crash.

It was at a hotel in this neighborhood — at 43rd and Broadway, on a site now marked with a plaque next to a Starbucks — that Eugene O’Neill was born in 1888. And it was at a hotel in this neighborhood that the playwright set the one-act play “Hughie,” in which Mr. Whitaker is preparing to star as a small-time gambler and big-time drinker called Erie Smith.


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