Backstage: After a stint on ‘Mad Men,’ actor Marty Lodge coming to Round House

Marty Lodge has something really cool to say, except he’s not allowed to say it.

“I’ve been sworn to secrecy,” he said.

(Courtesy of Round House Theatre) - Actor Marty Lodge, who will play the lead role in Double Indemnity at Round House Theater.

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Okay, fine, he will say one thing: “I’m going to be on ‘Mad Men’ next week.”

On Sunday night, “I play a freelance art director who they’ve brought in to help them pitch this big client,” he said, which was a great answer — but I was hoping he would be a little more vague.

“Is it Jaguar?” I want to know.

He caved. “Yes, it’s Jaguar.”

Some secret-keeper, that Lodge.

His scene takes place in the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce office, he said. “We were all just in one of the conference rooms, throwing ideas around, piling up garbage and cigarette butts.”

“Who is ‘we’?” I asked, because this is real investigative journalism.

“I did get to work with Jon Hamm, John Slattery and Christina Hendricks.”

Jon Hamm! Tell me more.

“Hamm is even better-looking in real life,” Lodge said, a statement that defies belief.

He was done divulging. “I had to sign a waiver form that said if I ever talked about it, they would kill me.” This is “a little over the top,” he added, “but it seems to work.”

Hopefully Lodge will not be murdered because of this article, because not only will he be starring in Round House Theatre’s “Double Indemnity,” but, in the middle of the run, he’s getting married.

Lodge, who has done more than 30 plays with Round House, will wed at the place where he met his fiancee, actress Ellen Karas: Arena Stage. The two starred in a 2007 production of “The Heidi Chronicles.”

Though he lived in D.C. for 13 years, Lodge, 52, is now based in L.A., something that proved useful for his “Double Indemnity” role. His character, an insurance agent living in Los Angeles in the 1930s, gets so good at thinking like a criminal that he becomes one. Film-noir-esque murder and sexy mayhem ensue.

“When I first moved [to L.A.], I was fascinated by these ’30s and ’40s crimes, like the Black Dahlia,” Lodge said. Almost all the locations mentioned in the play “are within two miles of where I’m currently living,” he said. “I know exactly where all these people are. I can picture it in my head.”

May 30-June 24, 4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda, www.roundhousetheatre.org, 240-644-1100.

David Snider joins Arena

David Snider is joining Arena Stage as director of artistic programming. Currently the producing artistic director and chief executive of the Young Playwrights’ Theater, Snider will take charge of Arena’s artistic development department in July, overseeing the American Voices New Play Institute, casting, dramaturgy and audience enrichment.

“I think he is the right person at the right time for Arena Stage,” said Artistic Director Molly Smith.

Snider, selected from a national pool of 70 applicants, said he’ll focus on “finding who Arena is in this new space [and] building an even stronger network of local and national artists who feel like Arena is a home base for them. . . . As we move forward, what is Arena in the 21st century?

“Arena’s been on my radar a long time,” he said. “Zelda Fichandler [a co-founder and longtime artistic director at Arena] was my mentor during graduate school at NYU, so joining Arena Stage feels like a kind of homecoming to me.”

He’s come a long way from his theatrical debut at age 5 — a pretty impressive gig, considering the kindergartner landed a part in a high school play. “I was a doll that came to life,” he said, in a play whose title he can’t recall. “I just remember the lights coming up on my face. . . and that was it for me. I was hooked.”

A field trip to hell

Tom Prewitt is headed south. Literally. He’s driving through the mountains, en route from Boston to Washington after his son’s graduation from Tufts University. And he’s directing American Ensemble Theater’s “Bobby Gould in Hell,” David Mamet’s field trip to the underworld.

Prewitt knows what you imagine when you visualize hell: the devil with that Lucifer leer on his face and an American Gothic pitchfork in his hand.

“You’re talking about puncturing preconceived notions of what it’s like to be in hell,” Prewitt said. In the play, the Interrogator enters “dressed in fishing garb. That’s not your typical notion of Satan’s day off.”

Bobby Gould is put through the judgment wringer as the Interrogator determines whether he deserves damnation or salvation. Bobby’s effort at self-defense goes something like, “I’d say, grading on a curve, I was a straight B-minus sort of a guy.” His ex-girlfriend is called as a prosecuting witness. “I think that’s when Bobby essentially knows his goose is cooked,” Prewitt said.

Though he flirted with a set depicting the hellish places we encounter in daily life — the DMV, the dentist’s chair — he settled on “an abstract route. . . . It’s tied to the idea that the tortures we receive in the afterlife, or the rewards, are very much what we deserve.”

May 24-June 9, Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, 545 Seventh Street SE, American Ensemble Theater, 301-897-8411.

Ladies and gentlemen . . .

Mitchell Hébert has a circus on his hands.

He’s got a “teeny little circus ring” set up in the center of the Round House Theatre in Silver Spring, where he’s ringleading “The Illusion,” a play he first directed at the University of Maryland in 2009. It’s his second stint with Forum Theatre, in residence at Round House, this season; he acted in “The Language Archive” earlier this year.

“I love the idea of the circus,” he said. “It’s a magical place, but it can be a little sinister, too.”

He’s going somewhat off-script here — the text calls for “a magician’s cave,” but that didn’t quite satisfy Hébert.

“When I created the circus, I was thinking specifically of an environment that actors would find fun and energizing,” he said. “And I said, ‘What’s a cave today?’ I don’t know of any caves. To me, it didn’t resonate. I had to find a location that made sense to me that helped me find my way into this story.”

Three years after his first stab at the show, Hébert is ready to dig a little deeper. “We had a good production” at Maryland, he said. “But I never felt like I finished the work of it. It requires some mature people to really get the depth that the text is asking for. . . . You’re always kind of wondering what it would be like if you could have people out there who’ve lived a life.”

Hébert hopes the cast, which includes two actors from the Maryland production, will see the circus setting as a playground. “I was hoping if I found my way in that way, that the actors would also find their way in through that same door.”

May 24-June 16, 8641 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, www.forum-theatre.org, 240-644-1390.

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