Who could forget Spike and Drusilla?
For the serious “Buffy” fan, they're the deranged vampire lovers that make the “Twilight” clique look like the kids from “Dawson's Creek.”
But don't expect joyful sadism, biting or bloodletting of any kind in the quirky new comedy “The Bells of West 87th.” The new stage comedy stars James Marsters and Juliet Landau, the actors who breathed life into the unlikely, romantic undead duo on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
“We couldn't be literally any farther from Spike and Dru in terms of our characters,” says Landau during a conference call a week before Saturday's opening of “The Bells of West 87th.”
The play by Elin Hampton, whose comedy-writing credentials include “Dream On,” “Buffy” and “Mad About You,” runs weekends — 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 6 p.m. Sundays — through Oct. 13 at the Greenway Court Theatre in Los Angeles. It chronicles amateur poet Molly Fein's journey to independence and away from her crazy, dysfunctional family.
Pushing 40, unmarried and put-upon, she hits it off with her night-school pal, Chris Germain.
Come to find out he hits it off with everyone, including her family.
“The notes I have been given is I should combine Stan Laurel with either Bill or Ted; my choice,” Marsters says, with a laugh. “He's a pure soul, he's completely guileless, he's full of love and exuberance but most of life goes right over his head. He sees the best in everybody and he is absolutely no help to his girlfriend, Molly, whatsoever.”
“Well,” Landau chimes in, “he starts out as helpful.”
“At the beginning, I suppose, but he just doesn't get it and I love playing characters that have a blind spot somewhere,” Marsters says. “Chris has the biggest blind spot of any character I have ever played. Like, I don't know if I want my wife to see this play because I'm not sure if I'll ever get laid again.”
“Oh, no, he's very sweet; that's not true,” Landau says. “I think she can come.”
“Be it on your head, Juliet,” he says.
One thing's obvious: They still get each other.
Although this is the first time Marsters and Landau have worked together since “Buffy” and its spin-off series “Angel,” the two have remained friends over the years. They often catch up at fan expos where Marsters repeats time and again how he owes his Hollywood breakthrough to Landau, daughter of Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, who co-starred in Tim Burton's “Ed Wood” as Loretta King before Drusilla came along.
“One of the things I love about Juliet is she's fearless as an actor, and I'm kind of the same way,” says Marsters, who got his start on the stage. “I like to surprise, sometimes horrify, but always delight the audience. And we went there instinctually with each other in the (Buffy) audition. If I hadn't clicked with Juliet they would have kept looking.”
Landau is also credited with giving the thumbs up when it came to casting Marsters in “The Bells of West 87th” as her character's on-stage beau. She had taken part in four readings of the play while it was in development last year, and was so drawn to Molly that she jumped at the chance to play her in the production.
“She's sort of the every woman,” Landau says. “And yet she's a very particular and unique and special character that I have never played the likes of before.”
“Juliet is my good-luck charm because whenever I work with Juliet, I'm in the middle of great writing,” adds Marsters, who has high praise for Hampton, even comparing her to award-winning American playwright Neil Simon. “She has the ability to affect my heart, but at the same time, I'm laughing.”
The play is scheduled for a limited run in Los Angeles with no plans to take it on the road.
But Marsters says he's optimistic.
“I fully expect it to go either to Chicago or New York,” he says. “And I hope to be in the play so they can pay me slightly more than what they're paying me now.”
The Bells of West 87th
Where: Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles
When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturday, 6 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 13
Information: 323-655-7679, Ext. 100; www.greenwayarts.org