Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stacy Keach Interview

I had the great pleasure of speaking with Mr. Stacy Keach, Jr., Tuesday afternoon and we had a fun chat about his life, his parents, and, mostly, his current appearance in John Robin Baitz's newest Broadway play, Other Desert Cities. Below is my transcript of what came out of our conversation.

Sam Negin: I haven't seen the show yet, but have heard strong, positive things about you, your costars, and the play itself. What can you tell me about your role?

Stacy Keach: The character I play, Lyman Wyeth, is modeled on Ronald Reagan and John Gavin -- an actor turned GOP politician. John Gavin is a former Ambassador to Mexico. His daughter, Brooke (played by Rachel Griffiths), comes back having written a memoir about an event that happened to the family when Brooke's brother, with whom Lyman was close, was fighting in (and later came back from) the Vietnam War.

SN: This show started off-Broadway at Lincoln Center last year and, after a hiatus with some new cast members, the show has returned to the stage, this time in a Broadway engagement. How have the cast changes impacted the show?

SK: One of the great virtues of this play is that it allows each person to express himself in his own terms. Judith Light, in the role of Silda (a role which was played by Linda Lavin off-Broadway), is demonstrative of this. She is such a liberal in real life, but makes this part (a staunch conservative) her own. Linda was subtle and riveting, but both are equally engaging. Elizabeth Marvel (who played Brooke in the off-Broadway production) was much earthier, while Rachel's performance is like air. This show is really an enxemble. It's like chamber music in a way. Each person has his own expression, so the tone and delivery of each line changes with new actors, but the content is always the same.

SN: Are there any particular challenges to playing a role like this?

SK: You know, it's funny. This character reminds me a lot of my father and, in many ways, I feel like I'm playing a version of him. My folks were staunch republicans. I grew up in Southern California and every Easter was at the Country Club, so this set of people was very familiar to me emotionally. To hit even closer to home, when she's performing her role as my character's wife, Stockard Channing sounds exactly like my mother did.

SN: You haven't been on Broadway since 1993's The Kentucky Cycle. What brought you back to the stage after such a long absence?

SK: This play is what brought me back! I have done some smaller, non-Broadway productions here and there since then, including King Lear, but it was this writing that made me want to do this play. I did 10 Unknowns by Robbie (who wrote this play) a number of years ago and loved working with him. When he said he was creating this character for me, I jumped at the opportunity. It's great to be creating a role again. Baitz just has this way with words and witticisms -- it's like a combination of Noel Coward and Anton Chekhov. Each character has his own voice, unlike many plays or TV shows you see nowadays where most of the characters sound a lot alike. Someone reminded me that, between the off-Broadway production and this one, I've played this role over 200 times and I was shocked! It feels as though it's only been a few weeks!

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