Rabe Is 'Lili With An I' In THE AMERICAN PLAN

Mothers and daughters....a very unique relationship indeed which can present its own unique problems as noted in the current production of Richard Greenberg's THE AMERICAN PLAN, playing at MTC's Friedman Theatre (261 West 47th Street). Directed by Tony nominee David Grindley, the show features Tony and Academy Award Winner Mercedes Ruehl and the subject of my interview, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominee Lily Rabe.

Rabe was previously see on Broadway in HEARTBREAK HOUSE for which she received an Outer Critics Circle nomination and as Anelle in STEEL MAGNOLIAS at the Lyceum Theatre for which she was honored with a Drama Desk nomination. Her Off-Broadway credits include CRIMES OF THE HEART and COLDER THAN HERE. The theatre genes are in her blood being the daughter of acclaimed actress Jill Clayburgh and playwright David Rabe.

This is a young woman who has come into her own and is making a name for herself in the theatre world. We talked recently about her role in THE AMERICAN PLAN and life growing up surrounded by the entertainment business.

TJ:  Tell me a little bit about the character that you play in THE AMERICAN PLAN.  I understand her name is Lili?

RABE:  Yes, her name is Lili, spelled differently.  All five characters in the play are fascinating and complicated.  She's quicksilver...she's very mercurial.  There's a level of mystery to her. Her mother has a line, like 'Lili must to be singed by a thing to keep from being incinerated by it.' And I think that that's true.  She tests the boundaries.  She's incredibly sheltered and has been very protected, sort of kept, by her mother.  Her social graces...many of those things have been stunted.  On the other hand she's wildly and fiercely intelligent and precocious and adventurous and daring. The coupling of those two opposites and her instincts versus her environments make for a really fascinating and challenging character.  She's complicated.

On the other hand, she's just a girl trying to figure out who the hell she is and get out from under her mother's thumb.  I think that that's universal, really...that sort of trying to become independent. She has some extenuating circumstances thatmake her position more challening than most.

And she falls desperately, desperately in love.  I remember how a first love does really make you want to become independent and makes you want to grow up soon as possible.  You start to think about your whole life and your future, your future with someone else...your future outside your family.  And in this case, her future outside of her mother.  It's very intense.

TJ: The bottom line with most parents, especially mothers because of their maternal bond with their daughters is the innate need to protect them.

RABE:  And she's her only child and the father was not there for very long.  It's not a healthy relationship but there is love, and as you say, that instinct which is driving her and ultimately is very destructive.  Unfortunately, Lily pays terrible consequences because of that.  She certainly does not want to destroy her daughter's life.  That's not her intention at all.

TJ:  It must be great to work with Mercedes Ruehl!

RABE: She is fantastic.  I love her madly.  She's an incredible actress...  She's a real creature of the stage.  She's so alive and present always and brave and smart and very generous.  We've found a sort of wonderful bond and we have a great time together.  I've had a wonderful experience working with her.

TJ:  You've been getting a lot of buzz since you first appeared on Broadway in Steel Magnolias.  And you were nominated for drama desk award for your performances Anelle.  Were you pleased with that experience?

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TJ Fitzgerald TJ Fitzgerald has been interviewing theatre’s finest talent with BroadwayWorld.com since January 2006. He has been active in the New England Theatre scene both as a participant (acting and directing) and an enthusiast of the entertainment scene for over 40 years. He was a featured columnist writing interviews and theatre features for New England Entertainment Digest and served on the Board of the New England Theatre Conference (NETC) for several years. Some of his noteworthy interviews have included entertainment luminaries like Tony Award winners Tommy Tune, Sutton Foster, Karen Ziemba, Michael Rupert, Faith Prince, Joanna Gleason and Gregory Jbara, Tony Nominees Brad Oscar, Keith Carradine and Andrea McArdle, Oscar nominee Marsha Mason, Oscar winning songwriter Paul Williams, Adrienne Barbeau and Oscar/Emmy award winning composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz. 2009 saw a milestone for TJ as he was welcomed to the 50's. In TJ’s words, "Life is good! Everyone's got a great story to tell and I am all ears! Theatre is my life!"