(Broadway, New York) They’ve got theatre in their blood. Not to mention each other’s DNA. As The Tall Brothers, a 1920s-era comedy team playing gangsters disguised as pastry chefs in The Drowsy Chaperone, Jason and Garth Kravits are relying on their decades spent hamming it up together — as real-life brothers.
When the producers cast Jason, 39, in the plum role of Gangster #1, they asked him for some advice about who to hire as his onstage partner. “They said, ‘Is there anybody else you know who does this type of shtick, who looks like you, who could be your brother?’” Jason says. “And I thought, ‘Well, you know, my brother.’”
Enter younger sibling Garth, 38. Since he came on board as Gangster #2, the duo’s Marx Brothers-meet-Kiss Me Kate antics have emerged as one of the highlights of the show. With their brief but memorable onstage appearances punctuated by quick, pun-laden patter and impeccably timed antics, the characters need to look as if they’re a finely honed comedy team. And both brothers agree that it’s not acting. “It’s very rare that you have what Jason and I have. We speak in sync and we move in sync,” Garth says. “I can’t even imagine doing that with someone that’s not Jason.”
Nowhere was that connection more apparent than during a recent performance, when a bobbled prop turned into an opportunity to showcase the Kravits’ ability to think and act on the same wavelength. During the show, the brothers pass a rolling pin back and forth as part of their vaudevillian performance. There was one potentially terrifying moment where the pin slipped from one of their hands and hit the ground. Instead of breaking character — or having a pair of heart attacks — the brothers’ instinct sprung into action.
“Literally, without missing a beat, without dropping a line, without missing the timing of the line, my brother bent down and threw it up in the air over his shoulder,” Jason says. “I knew he was going to do it. And he knew that I was going to catch it.”
“With any other actor, I think I might have panicked,” Garth says. “But it didn’t even phase me. I just sort of bent down, grabbed it, flipped it up in the air, knowing he was knowing it was coming. And he knew where it was, and he caught it, and we went on with the scene.”
“It was so smooth, that people who saw the show that night thought that was part of the choreography,” Jason agrees. “And that’s only going to happen with somebody that you’ve worked with for 30 years.”
Not only are the brothers burning up Broadway with their performance today, they may be laying the groundwork for a Kravits-family tradition down the road. “We have sons that are about eight days apart,” says Garth, “and in 30 years we assume they’ll both be playing Gangster #1 and Gangster #2 in a revival of Drowsy Chaperone.”
Brian Bellmont is a frequent contributor to MSNBC.com and Broadway Magazine