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BWW Interview: Investigating the Twists and Turns of MCC's THE NETHER with Ben Rosenfield!

MCC Theater presents the New York premiere of Jennifer Haley's The Nether directed by Anne Kaufman and starring Ben Rosenfield, Sophia Anne Caruso, Merritt Wever, Peter Friedman and Frank Wood. The Nether runs now through March 15, 2015 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre (121 Christopher Street).

The Nether, winner of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, is a haunting thriller that will make you question when the fantastic becomes too real. There is a new immersive realm for the senses online, a virtual playground where those who plug in are coaxed into acting out their darkest fantasies - with no consequences in the "real" world. Or so it seems...until a young female detective begins an investigation to determine if there is a point at which thought or intention may actually constitute a crime within -- and outside of -- this new frontier.

Rosenfield, who plays 'Woodnut' in the production, just chatted with BroadwayWorld about opening night, the twists and turns of this plot, and so much more! Check out the full interview below!


Congrats on opening night! Is there a sense of relief now that you've made it through the preview period?

Absolutely! I'm so excited because I feel like we are just going to continue to grow and get better and better from here. It's definitely exciting, but also a relief!

I realize that it's probably hard for you to talk about your character without giving anything away... how do you usually describe how he fits into the story?

He's a detective who is on a mission to take down a realm in The Nether. I think he's very passionate about the case and has very conflicting feelings about what the realm is providing in terms of the experience. And of course he gets a little lost along the way...

Were you surprised by the twists and turns of this plot the first time you read the play?

Oh yeah, I was shocked! When I got the breakdown for the play I was like, "What the heck is this?" It sounded pretty impossible. But then I read it and it worked. It was incredibly shocking, deeply disturbing, and beautifully written. So as soon as I read it, I realized that I had to do it.

It must be pretty cool to be a part of something that genuinely shocks people!

That's the most that you can ask for- to be apart of something that makes people feel things! And also this is the first time that I've felt that I've been a part of a story that's important. It's such a prescient play. The issues that it's bringing up, besides the shock value, are really important questions that lead us to ask, "How do we want to evolve as a society?" This kind of stuff is moving forward. It's happening! We should definitely be thinking about what that means and about what it will mean for the future and how we exist.

What's It been like collaborating with your four co-stars onstage?

Oh, it's been phenomenal. Most of my scenes are with Sophia Anne Caruso, who is just remarkable. She's 13-years-old, going on 30. She's an incredibly gifted actress, so it's been a joy to work with her. Frank [Wood], Peter [Friedman], and Merritt [Wever] are amazing. I unfortunately don't get to work with Merritt or Peter on stage, but Frank is a genius. He surprises me out there every night, and that's the most you can ask for.

Have you guys gotten a chance to bond a lot outside of the rehearsal room?

A little bit! It's a really intense play though, so it's the kind of thing where when the show is over, we are excited to go home and try to shake it off before we have to do it again the next day [Laughs]. We are definitely all in it together though!

Yeah, the subject matter of this piece is very heavy... is that tough to take that home with you every night?

Yeah, it definitely bleeds into your life a little bit. I think it's important, at least for me as an actor, not to leave it all there. You've got to be close enough to it to be with it every day. I think that's good. I like work that pushes me in that way. It's definitely a hard thing to go home with nightly!

Have you thought at all about if something like The Nether actually existed, what your ideal escape might be?

I haven't! I really like watching movies and things... and listening to music. Maybe something that could involve all of that? We'll see! Megan Ellison, who runs Annapurna, which is an amazing production company, just started a virtual reality part of the brand. I think in a few years we'll actually be able to talk about what our favorite escapes are!

You've done a lot of TV and film work recently! Has it been good to be back on stage?

Oh yeah, it's been amazing. I've been wanting to do a play ever since I finished my first one, which was my first job. It's hard to find parts for young people that have this kind of depth and complexity. I'm so happy to be returning with this play on this stage. It makes you a better actor. I hope to be lucky enough to keep doing interesting theatre here in New York. It's a dream.

What has the best part of this experience so far?

I think it's been a combination of getting to work with Jennifer [Haley]'s script, because it's such phenomenal material, getting to say these words every night has been amazing... and then the collaboration between the cast and Anne [Kaufman] has also been really great. She's an amazing director and she's pushed us all to places that were hard to imagine we'd ever get to. I'm learning so much from everybody, so that has been the highlight for me.


Rosenfield was prominently featured in the final two seasons of HBO's "Boardwalk Empire." Ben also recently filmed Woody Allen's next picture opposite Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix. He currently appears in JC Chandor's A Most Violent Year, and will next be seen in the lead role opposite Taissa Farmiga in the next feature from producer Mark Duplass. At this year's Sundance, Ben appeared with Anne Hathaway in the musical feature Song One, and this spring, he will be featured in three hot indie releases: Affluenza; Louder Than Words; andJamesy Boy. Ben portrayed Tim Buckley in Dan Algrant's film Greetings from Tim Buckley which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, and was shown at Tribeca as well. He launched his career in the leading role opposite Carey Mulligan in the off-Broadway play, Through A Glass Darkly.

Following The Nether, MCC Theater will present the world premiere of Robert Askins' Permission, set for April 29 - June 7, 2015 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre. As previously announced, Alex Timbers will direct. Timbers is a two-time Tony-nominated writer and director and the recipient of Lucille Lortel, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Awards, as well as two OBIE Awards. On Broadway, he co-directed Peter and the Starcatcher and directed and wrote the book for Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, among others. Off-Broadway, he has memorably directed Here Lies Love and Love's Labours Lost-both at The Public. Permission marks the return of playwright Robert Askins to MCC Theater, where last season he debuted his critically-acclaimed Hand to God-a play which will open on Broadway in Spring 2015 with its MCC Theater cast and creative team reprising their work.


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