For the sake of his art, the muscular, 6-foot-4-inch 4 Keith Hamilton Cobb is willing to cut the soft dreadlocks that hang past his shoulders. Fortunately, he won't have to for his role as Aufidius, battlefield rival of the title character in "Coriolanus," opening Sunday at the Shakespeare Theatre.
Relaxing in an apartment near the theater last week, Cobb sipped a protein drink (orange juice, protein powder, strawberries, bananas) and talked of his life, his acting and his hair. This is an actor who has set up a Web site for his fans. They can see pictures tracing his career and the evolution of his do. They can read his New Age musings on acting and life. Cobb is also featured, he told Backstage, in the coffee-table book "Dreads," which spotlights dreadlocked people from around the world.
The actor, who is in his early thirties and was raised in Tarrytown, N.Y., played Tybalt in "Romeo and Juliet" and Octavius in "Julius Caesar" at the Shakespeare Theatre during the 1993-94 season. Then he muted his classical chops in favor of fluttering hearts as Noah Keefer on daytime TV's "All My Children."
"Making the choice to do daytime was really a necessity. They offered me a lot of money. This may launch me into a Hollywood career, which may allow me to do the roles I want to do," he said.
"Coriolanus" is his first big-stage production since that short season at the Shakespeare Theatre. Of Volscian general Aufidius and his rival, Roman general Coriolanus, Cobb quoted a line from the film "The Talented Mr. Ripley": "Why is it when men play, they always play at killing each other?" He sees the two generals as macho playmates whose competition and mutual admiration smolders into homoerotic lust. In fact, their climactic confrontation "becomes this very close, hand-to-hand, animal sort of paroxysm; hugely martial."
After Washington, Cobb will go to Vancouver, B.C., to play a lead role in a new syndicated sci-fi series, "Andromeda," starring Kevin Sorbo of television's "Hercules." Cobb's genetically engineered character is "a future superhuman being who looks like me," he said, expressing pleasure at the progress implicit in casting an African American as the perfect human.