British actor Damian Lewis says his latest role as a man in love with a goat is perfect for our unsettled times.
The "Homeland" and "Billions" star is back on the London stage in Edward Albee's "The Goat, Or Who is Sylvia," a tragicomedy about a successful, happily married architect whose sudden passion for a farmyard animal has devastating consequences.
A verbally dazzling, emotionally draining exploration of love and the limits of tolerance, the play's new London production drew laughter and shocked gasps from its opening-night audience Wednesday.
After the show, Lewis said the play suits a time when "we feel generally more uncertainty and more absurdity in our politics at the moment, both here and in the U.S."
"And this is a play where something drops out of the blue sky that's utterly shocking, that's unexpected and it causes great uncertainty and not a little trauma through the course of the play," he said.
Lewis said the shock "feels a little bit like we're experiencing now" after upheavals including the election of President Donald Trump and Britain's vote to leave the EU.
"I think we're all feeling a bit battered at the moment," he said.
Lewis, 46, last appeared in the West End in David Mamet's "American Buffalo" in 2015. He's tackling "The Goat" — first staged in New York in 2002 — during the summer break from his role as a hedge-fund financier in the Showtime drama "Billions."
The London-based actor has made a screen career in the U.S. since he played former prisoner of war and suspected terrorist Sgt. Nicholas Brody in political thriller series "Homeland."
Lewis is never offstage during the almost two-hour play, which escalates into furious, plate-smashing rows between Lewis' architect Martin and his wife, Stevie, played by Sophie Okonedo. As if that weren't enough, on opening night the actor was battling an ear infection that left him in "tremendous pain" and threw off his balance.
"There was one point in Act Three where I had to hold a chair because I was going to pass out," Lewis said. "So I've had a very eventful evening."
So have audiences during the show's preview run. Okonedo said "every show, the audience gets very vocal. In Britain, that's quite unusual."
"It's really hard to be shocked at the theater these days," she said. But the work of Albee, who died in 2016, still packs a punch.
"I found it really shocking when I read it. It left me kind of breathless," Okonedo said. "I thought, I've got to do it because I had such a strong reaction to it."
"The Goat" runs to June 24 at Theatre Royal Haymarket.