Randall Newsome is making his debut appearance with the Shakespeare Theatre Company in one of the most unusual roles of his career. As the Room Clerk in Eugene O'Neill's "Hughie," he does more listening than talking while Erie Smith, played by Richard Schiff, laments the loss of a friend.

"Richard is alive and full of energy portraying a character filled with desperation," Newsome said. "The first key moment in the plot is when he comes in at three in the morning wanting to talk. The next is when it dawns on me that this person is not going to leave. The tricky part for an actor playing the Room Clerk is that he has to listen intently. If your mind wanders, the audience picks up on it immediately."

Newsome is enthusiastic about working with Schiff and director Doug Hughes, whom he first met while auditioning for the off-Broadway world premiere of "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter." He appreciates Hughes for the questions he asks and ease of communication. He is equally impressed by the authentic, pre-Depression period hotel design that places the Room Clerk's small desk within a large expanse that allows no place to go.

Newsome's extensive resume encompasses theater, film, television and even the circus. Recent television appearances have included "The Good Wife," "Person of Interest" and "Boardwalk Empire." During the '90s, he worked as assistant director on a variety of films that took him to many locations until he realized during a job in Nicaragua that production did not interest him as much as other aspects of entertainment. However, he still retains membership in the Directors Guild of America.

» Where: Lansburgh Theatre, 450 Seventh St. NW
» When: Thursday through March 17
» Info: $43 to $100; 202-547-1122; shakespearetheatre.org

"During those years, I had the privilege of working with terrific actors like Joan Plowright, Walter Matthau and Sean Connery," he said. "These people are so good at what they do and yet they are just human beings. I loved the way they pulled off a character and made it come to life right in front of your eyes. Watching them was like taking a drama course. They taught me how to become a good actor."

Among his Broadway shows are "The Seafarer," "Art," "Inherit the Wind" and O'Neill's "A Touch of the Poet," one from the playwright's nine-play cycle of mini-eulogies, one of which is "Hughie," the second to last before the incomplete "More Stately Mansions."

"I want the Shakespeare Theatre audience to recognize two very real people onstage and to think, 'I know just what that guy's going through.' " Newsome said. "Whether you're in the theater, at a movie or attending a game, you are having an experience of some kind, and that helps you understand what others are experiencing."