Review: Gabriel Byrne shines in melancholic comedy ‘No Pay, Nudity’

Summarizing the plight of the average working actor’s lot in three all-too-familiar words, “No Pay, Nudity,” is a tenderly observed, bittersweet comedy featuring a beautifully rooted Gabriel Byrne.

Byrne is Lawrence Rose (formerly Lester Rosenthal), a once-popular soap star whose many years out of the spotlight have begun to take an emotional, as well as a longstanding financial, toll.

When not doing odd jobs like reading the newspaper to a supposedly blind man, he can be found in the company of fellow thespians Herschel (Nathan Lane in glib quipster mode) and the sweet Andrea (Frances Conroy) whiling away the hours in a mid-Manhattan Actor’s Equity Lounge still dreaming the dream.

You don’t require the bios of first-time director Lee Wilkof and screenwriter Ethan Sandler to realize that both men have extensive acting resumes, given the knowing, been-there-done-that affection they have for both the characters and the milieu.

While they might have trusted their instincts more (having Lane also popping in and out as the occasional narrator proves unnecessary and distracting), the filmmakers are blessed with a terrific ensemble, also including Broadway greats Donna Murphy and Boyd Gaines.


But it is Byrne’s wholly inhabited, sweetly melancholic turn — he’s Willy Loman with an Equity card — that richly deserves its extended time in the spotlight.

Ultimately resigned to playing the part of the Fool in a Dayton, Ohio, production of “King Lear,” yet still clinging to a shred of dignity, his muted tragicomic performance movingly takes “have more than you show, speak less than you know” to heart.


‘No Pay, Nudity’

MPAA rating: R, for language throughout

Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino

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