If you see Matthew Patrick Davis, 35, while he’s in town this summer, please don’t stare. The 6-foot- 8-inch, 170-pound actor knows he’s tall and thin, but it’s not like he’s a freak or anything. Most of the time.
“I’m playing a freak [called ‘The Geek’] in the new production of ‘Side Show’ — and, spoiler alert — I bite the head off a chicken in the first five minutes,” he says.
“Side Show,” a reboot of a short-lived 1997 Broadway musical, tells the true-ish story of conjoined twins who started out as side show attractions and became vaudeville stars. When the Hilton sisters go on to fame and fortune, the show disbands, leaving The Geek to find a less gruesome way to make a living.
Many of the side show stars, such as Reptile Man and Dog Boy, are played by actors who rely on elaborate costumes and prosthetics for their unusual appearances. Davis does wear a mask and giant buck teeth, but the rest is all him.
“I don’t wear stilts or anything,” he says. “They just put me in a costume that’s super tight, with black and white vertical stripes that accentuate my height.”
Davis manages to sing despite the gear on his face. “I have kind of lowered my voice and given The Geek a bit of a verbal slur,” Davis says. “Hopefully it sounds like the voice of a character instead of a person trying to talk with giant fake teeth.”
Davis’ gifts extend beyond height. He’s a talented physical comedian, which landed him a spot on “The Sarah Silverman Program,” where he did a dead-on Ace Ventura impersonation. “They all thought that was all I did, that I was a full-time Jim Carrey impersonator,” Davis says.
It was actually the first time he’d been paid to mimic Carrey, though he’d had plenty of practice. As an “impressionable high schooler,” Davis loved the rubber-faced actor so much, he got into the habit of talking like Carrey all the time, much to his parents’ dismay.
Stints at the Upright Citizens Brigade cured him of that tic, and he’s since taken on a variety of roles, mainstream and not. He’s been a zombie customer in a Sprint commercial, appeared in small parts on “Community” and “Greek,” and played Vomit in the indie film “Bulimia: The Musical.”
No matter how far he stretches as an actor, Davis accepts that some roles will be forever out of his reach. “Face it. I won’t be starring opposite Tom Cruise in any films anytime soon, unless it’s as a scary monster towering over him,” Davis says.
Plot of ‘Side Show’
Conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton are the star performers in a 1930s traveling side-show, but Daisy Dreams of main- stream stardom and Violet hopes to marry and lead a ordinary life. Since they are joined at the hip, complications ensue.
Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW; through July 13, $45-$130; 202-467-4600. (Foggy Bottom)
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