Henry Winkler is trying redeem himself after a very brief stint in a play called 42 Seconds from Broadway. It opened in 1973, before the Fonz and Happy Days for the Yale University Drama School graduate.
How brief was it?
"You know what? It was quick. I was on Broadway from 8 p.m. to 11," Winkler deadpanned.
This is John Ritter's first time on the Great White Way. It's a somewhat happy but unsettling time for the film and television veteran.
"Every time I come to the theatre, I go, 'it's still there. They still have the poster up,' " Ritter said. "It's joy. It's pure joy."
The play they share is called The Dinner Party. The guests are three divorced couples, trapped for an evening in a restaurant in Paris. It's Neil Simon's 31st play, and for these two sitcom stars, it was a hands-on experience.
"We sat on one side of a block of marble and Neil sat on the other and we chiseled until we met in the middle," Winkler said.
Not that the play's process and meaning are yet completely clear.
Winkler: "It all has a bit of a mystique about it."
Ritter : "In what way?"
Winkler: "In a mystique way. You know, vague, cryptic, enigmatic, ambiguous."
Ritter: "How do you mean?"
Winkler and Ritter have been friends for more than two decades, since Winkler was the Fonz and Ritter was Jack Tripper on Three's Company. Their characters were so memorable people still call them Fonzie and Jack.
Not that Winkler minds.
"They (fans) came to the television set for 11 years, and if they want to say hello, that's pretty great," Winkler said.
And while producers are banking that these big names on the marquee will bring in the crowds, the stars themselves are a little star-struck.
"You dream about it, you fantasize about it, and then, all of a sudden, you open the Sunday (New York) Times and we're in a Hirschfeld (cartoon). It's indescribable," Winkler said.
The Dinner Party opened to mixed reviews, but it's playing to packed houses. It's sweet success for two old friends, and they are eating it up.
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