There’s no shortcut to a decades-long marriage. There is, however, a shortcut to depicting one onstage: Cast actors who have known each other forever and who have been “married” before. That’s the case with Florence Lacey and John Leslie Wolfe, who play real-life couple Isidor and Ida Straus in “Titanic,” the 1997 musical based on the nautical disaster (and unrelated to the 1997 movie) now running at Signature Theatre. Even though Lacey and Wolfe haven’t spent 40 years together like the Strauses did — the actors last worked side by side in 1987, playing Juan and Evita Peron for the national tour of “Evita” — they found that, when it comes to pretend love, some things never change.
Did you see each other at all after the “Evita” tour ended?
Wolfe: We’ve seen each other a few times, but we’ve lived in different places and done different shows, and my career path took me to other parts of the country. [“Titanic” director] Eric Schaeffer, who knows both of us pretty well, approached us and said, “I want to put you together again,” and we just jumped at it.
So was it like getting the band back together, so to speak?
Lacey: It felt like no time has passed. I looked in John’s eyes and was like, “Oh, yeah, I’ve been married to him!”
Wolfe: We essentially lived together for four or five years onstage. When you’re touring in a national tour, you’re together all the time, so we know each other’s rhythms very well. It was just so great in that first rehearsal to hear Florence sounding exactly the same as when we did “Evita.” Although she doesn’t have to sing as high in this show.
Lacey: Thank God.
Did that help when it came to playing characters who have been married so long?
Wolfe: It made it much easier because a part of the importance of these two characters is that romance between them. It wouldn’t be terribly easy to walk in with somebody you don’t know and immediately have a physical language with which you can express romance and intimacy.
Lacey: The first time I listened to [Isidor and Ida’s song, the love-never-dies ballad “Still”], I thought, “How am I going to look into John’s eyes and sing this song without sobbing my heart out?” Because we have such a history, we have such love and respect for one another — and somehow, in the theater, those things don’t dissolve. They maybe grow over time.
Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave.; through Jan. 29, $40-$108.
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