Perry said he has only directed a few times and is not by any means an expert.
"I have a sentimentality for the aesthetic of small spaces," said Perry, a Chicago native who co-founded Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company with fellow actor Gary Sinise more than 40 years ago. "And in this case, I don't need to act. I simply want to help tell the story. I like this play because it really explores the limits of male friendship. It also explores how our vantage points are destined to be solitary to an extent."
And Perry found this particular play fascinating because he said it breaks the cardinal rule of theater: show, don't tell: "These characters are retelling events that happened in the past and sometimes they put creative spin and justifications on history. It's a word-drenched script. It's almost more like an audio book experience."
He pitched the play to Alliance artistic director Susan Booth, also a former Chicago denizen. But although their years in Chicago did overlap, Perry said they never worked together until now. And one of the actors in the play, Thomas Vincent Kelly, had worked with Booth for a play at the Alliance in 2013.
Booth said she was familiar with the playwright Keith Huff from her Chicago days and the decision to do the play was a no brainer:
"It's a big fat gift to two actors," she wrote in an email today, "and when one of our generation's consummate actors wants to direct that piece -- that's beyond appealing. This is pure actor mastery; there's no bells and whistles to hide behind; the whole weight of the evening falls to the actors' capacity to trap you in their stories."
She said although she hadn't worked with Perry before, "I've seen him on stage countless times and am a big fat fan of the company [Steppenwolf] he dreamed into being."
Her take on Perry vs. Cyrus: " 'Wicked ruthless' applies ONLY to Cyrus. Jeff is, in so many ways, the character's emotional opposite."
"Scandal," in the meantime returns next week and character Cyrus is in a bind. The last we saw him in the season four finale, he had just been ousted from the White House as chief of staff by president Fitz Grant over a perceived betrayal, replaced by an avowed enemy.
"Fitz got fed up being lied to, " Perry said. "I try to tell him I only lie when it's necessary I'm protecting you. It's for the good of the republic." (Isn't that what Cyrus always says?")
Perry can't give away much of what is going to happen but he agrees that it's doubtful Cyrus will be collecting too many unemployment checks or sitting at home watching "Judge Judy" all day.
"Cyrus will move heaven and earth to get back into the White House," Perry said. "Being at home is not going to work. Cyrus at home? I can't picture it."
He said his character went from being in lust with Michael, his new husband, to being betrayed by him, to wanting to murder to very slowly accepting him. Cyrus (gasp!) actually felt empathy for the guy when he saw how much his parents hated the fact he was gay.
Perry hopes, despite his busy "Scandal" schedule, to be in town this week in preparation for the show's bow Sept. 18. Otherwise, he will certainly be here on the weekends.
"A Steady Rain"
September 18 to October 11, varying dates and times
$20-$39, depending on the day
Hertz Stage at the Alliance
1280 Peachtree St. NE, Atlatna