[...] And since all three plays - "Voyage," "Shipwreck" and "Salvage" - are in constant rotation, rehearsal and tech periods often run between noon and 5 p.m. and then everyone must return to perform three hours later.
"My fears were that it would be like being on an offshore oil rig and it hasn't been quite like that," says Jennifer Ehle, a new mother who also has three roles. "Actually, it's like being on an offshore oil rig with my family stationed on a boat two leagues away and I have a row boat to get to them."
It promises to get even tougher: The cast and crew are to undertake all three plays in back-to-back-to-back marathons on Feb. 24, March 3, March 10, March 24, March 31, April 7, April 21, April 28 and May 5.
The sheer complexity of all the show's moving parts is made clear midway through an afternoon interview with Easton, Harbour and Ehle in Easton's tidy dressing room.
At one point, an intercom crackles to life: "Could I have everyone in the funeral on stage, please!" a voice pleads. "Everyone in the funeral on stage, please!"
Harbour, 31, and Ehle, 37, instantly look at each other, wracking their brains to remember if they're needed for this rehearsal scene of "Salvage." Easton, for his part, is calm _ and for a good reason.
"It's my funeral," he explains.
Since he's not needed, Easton has about an hour to kill until the end of the play. So what does the 79-year-old actor typically do while dead? He reads old detective novels or does crossword puzzles.
"Occasionally, people come in and talk to me, try to cheer me up," he says, laughing.
Unlike Harbour, Ehle and Easton, a few of their co-stars - Jason Butler Harner as Ivan Turgenev, Hawke as Michael Bakunin, and Brian F. O'Byrne as Alexander Herzen - keep their characters for the entire three-play run.
But don't call those guys fortunate.
"I don't think they're lucky," says Easton, who portrays Bakunin's father in the first play, a Russian diplomat in the second and a Polish nobleman in the third. "We're lucky."
"Absolutely," says Ehle, who plays, in succession, a sister of Bakunin, the wife of Herzen, and then the governess of Herzen's children.
"Three parts for the price of one," explains Easton.
The three actors insist that even though there's so much dense material - some of it overlapping in time and subject - they never get confused about which play they're in. [...]
To get into character, each actor did his or her own research. O'Byrne and Crudup read a lot of Turgenev and Herzen. Ehle read "The Romantic Exiles" by E.H. Carr. There was even a field trip to Russia undertaken by O'Byrne and other cast members. [...]