It's All an Act, Your Honor

Watching Ed Aristone on stage rehearsing the role of a smoldering, smirking rapist -- one who sings, no less -- it's hard to imagine him in real life.

During an evening rehearsal at the tiny EDGE/Theatre in South Beach, he's one of the cast, a muscular guy in jeans and a snug T-shirt belting out soulful tunes with a passion that makes his coiled body look as if it'll explode at any moment.

But by day the Fort Lauderdale resident is a lawyer -- a commercial litigation attorney, to be precise. He's the kind of guy who heads to the courthouse in a navy blue suit and pressed white shirt, questions witnesses about business matters, and presents legal arguments to a judge.

One would assume that acting talent comes in handy for a lawyer. But for Aristone, acting and the law are two completely separate pursuits. His training as an actor, he says, may make him a better listener, but he's not the kind of lawyer who delivers closing arguments with fancy language and Shakespearean gestures.

"I let the law speak for itself," he says. "It's more important to have knowledge of legal matters and to know the law than it is to be overly dramatic in the courtroom. That doesn't mean you're not passionate about it. Your passion should be for your client and your client's cause."

Aristone says that even his acting style is subdued. He began cultivating that style as a kid growing up in New Jersey, where he went to professional auditions and landed some roles in commercials. In the third grade, his lisp (courtesy of two missing front teeth) got him a gig singing in a radio ad for a shopping center.

He continued to act and sing in high school and college shows, then went to New York City and trained at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute. But the work wasn't steady enough for a full-time career, so Aristone headed to South Florida, where his family owned a condo, and enrolled in law school.

Aristone graduated from Nova Southeastern Law School three years ago. While a legal career can be hectic, he's managed to continue acting by rehearsing and performing on weekends and occasional weeknights.

Right now he's appearing on videotape as a game show host with a dazzling smile in Juggernaut at the EDGE/North at the Studio in Fort Lauderdale. And he's rehearsing the part of the rapist for the world premiere of the musical drama Snake!, slated for a run in South Beach. The piece is about an alluring female star who, after having a nervous breakdown, reviews the various facets of her life. In one scene with Aristone, she relives the sexual assault against her.

"It's fun to play someone nobody likes, because you get the best lines," Aristone says.

During rehearsal his fellow cast members warn an onlooker not to be fooled by Aristone's talent. He's nothing like the nasty character he plays, they say. And there's certainly no confusing Aristone the thespian with Aristone the litigator. Acting, even playing a villain, he says, doesn't conflict with his legal career. Rather, it complements it.

"I love to sing and dance. I normally don't get to sing at the top of my lungs in the office -- or even dance for that matter," Aristone says, chuckling. "Although I have been known to dance when I've won a great legal victory. It's a small dance. It's more of a strut."

-- Patti Roth

Juggernaut continues its run at the EDGE/North at the Studio, 640 N. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale, through Sunday, August 2. Showtimes: Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $10. Call 954-763-5533. Snake! opens August 21 at the EDGE/ Theatre, 405 Espanola Way, Miami Beach. For information call 305-531-6083.

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Patti Roth