Peter Evans; Actor in TV Series '9 to 5'

Peter Evans, an accomplished stage actor who was known to a wider audience through his portrayal of Russ Merman in the television comedy series "9 to 5," died over the weekend of complications of acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

Evans, who was acclaimed locally in 1981 when he appeared with the national company of "Children of a Lesser God" at the Huntington Hartford Theatre, was 38 when he died Saturday at Century City Hospital.

Praised for a wide range of roles that included musical comedy and classical theater, Evans made his New York theater debut in 1975 in David Storey's play "Life Class."

In 1976, he was hailed for his portrayal of Richie in David Rabe's "Streamers." That performance won him that year's Clarence Derwent Award and a nomination for a Drama Desk Award as outstanding actor.

The next year he starred in David Mamet's "Life in the Theater," and in 1979 he played opposite Maggie Smith in Tom Stoppard's "Night and Day."

After touring with "Children," which was produced originally in Los Angeles in 1979, Evans took the show to Broadway for a revival of the drama of the relationship between a hearing teacher and his deaf student. The New York Times wrote of his performance: "Peter Evans now has the male lead in 'Children of a Lesser God' . . . and it is now infinitely more moving."

Evans also appeared in the films "Arthur" and "Imposters" and on television in "A Life in the Theater" and the PBS series, "Best of Families."

For the last few years, he had lived in Los Angeles while playing the role of the womanizing Merman on "9 to 5."

A native of Englewood, N.J., Evans graduated from Yale in 1972 and studied three years at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London.

Survivors include his parents, a brother and a sister.

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