Interview: Rachel York and Graham Rowat Duel in 'The Game'
Eight years after presenting the world premiere of The Game, Barrington Stage Company has brought it back by popular demand to downtown Pittsfield. Based on the 1782 novel Les Liaisons Dangereuse by Choderlos de Laclos, the musical is directed by Artistic Director Julianne Boyd, with Book and Lyrics by Amy Powers and David Topchik, and Music by Megan Cavallari. Starring as the Marquise de Merteuil and her sparring partner Vicomte de Valmont are Broadway veterans Rachel York and Graham Rowat. They spoke with BroadwayWorld during the rehearsal period for the show which runs through August 28 on the Mainstage.
BWW: Have the two of you ever worked together before?
GR: No. I know of Rachel and have heard of her. I was just working at Lincoln Center and there's a Dessa Rose poster on the wall that I walked by every day. She's kind of a legend, but I've never crossed paths with her before. She's so sweet and so unexpected - the comic, self-deprecating side to her.
BWW: She has great comic skills.
GR: And so humble, not having that giant ego.
BWW: What made you want to play this role?
RY: First of all, the character is so juicy and multi-layered. I played a big villain when I played Cruella DeVille (101 Dalmatians). The difference between Cruella and this role is Cruella is one-dimensional, not much more than an animated character, although I loved playing that character. This is a villain that is so complex and multi-layered. There's a lot of meat there and a lot of detective work. Another big reason is because I was really impressed with the music. I had heard a few songs from the show and I said, "Wow, this is great music!"
GR: It's kind of a dream role. I'm thrilled to be doing it. When I saw the Glenn Close and John Malkovich movie, I always wanted to play Valmont. He's not just a villain. A real villain isn't just evil, there are reasons.
BWW: Have you longed to play a "snake?" How do you make him more than just that?
GR: I think it has to go deeper than these people being wealthy and bored. I look to the definition of a sociopath. I also thought about one of my favorite TV shows, "Dexter." The sociopath is unable to feel empathy, they have feelings of superiority. Even though Valmont is very charming and he ultimately is moved by feelings...something is happening to him and to Rachel's character. Something happened to them when they were young. Their own innocence was stolen. Now that they're adults, when they see innocence in others, they need to destroy it. They tell themselves that they're glad that they lost it, but deep down they aren't and they hate it and feel they have to break it. And that goes into the games they play. Combined with the fact that they are wealthy and bored, but there's something else there. There's a desire to break things that are pretty.
BWW: How much input do you have into defining your character vs. the director's vision?
RY: I think the director and I are definitely on the same page. I agree with everything she tells me. She's lived with this musical several years longer than I have. I really do like her direction, the ideas that she's come up with. They make perfect sense, but obviously I have to bring the life to the character.
GR: We definitely sat down and sort of pitched our ideas. Julie was very receptive. We were coming at the character from different angles and they all kind of merged. I guess I would say about fifty-fifty.
BWW: I suppose some of it you sort of make up as you go along.
GR: Sure, and also discovering what bubbles up, working opposite Rachel and feeling that energy. We start off as a team almost, setting our sights on our victim, and by the end we're at each other's throats.
BWW: How do you make your characterization somehow different from Malkovich, or try to mirror him?
GR: Malkovich is such a neat actor. His performance was so, geez, almost like an alien in that movie. What I did was I watched the Milos Forman film that came out a year after called "Valmont" which features Colin Firth as Valmont, and that was very helpful because Colin Firth played the character much more playfully and joyfully. I'm a big, tall actor. I look at Colin Firth and...if you see actors who are like you, it gives me courage when I saw that he had done the role because he's a tall man. (Note: Rowat is 6'4")