BWW Interview: Matthew Lieff Christian in LIVES OF REASON at TRT
Lives of Reason, a world-premiere play by Two River Theater (TRT) founder, Robert Rechnitz and Kenneth Stunkel, will be on the Red Bank Stage from January 9th through February 7th. Set at an English Department faculty party, the play brings audiences inside the world of academia and what happens when one woman's secret passions explode. Lives of Reason is directed by Jonathan Fox, the former Artistic Director at Two River and now Executive Artistic Director of the Ensemble Theatre Company of Santa Barbara. Broadwayworld.com interviewed Matthew Lieff Christian, who plays one of the starring roles of Jeffrey Cabot in Lives of Reason. He spoke to us about his career and the upcoming TRT show.
Matthew Lieff Christian has been seen Off-Broadway in Anthem at the Baryshnikov Arts Center. Other New York theater appearances include Our God's Brother at the Storm Theatre and Blackfriars Rep, Unbirth at Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, and various new musical workshops, including at Playwrights Horizons and The New Victory Theater. Regional credits include As You Like It and Futurity: A Musical by the Lisps at A.R.T. He was also seen in Legally Blonde at Summer Theatre of New Canaan, a role that garnered a BroadwayWorld nomination for Best Featured Actor. Film credits include a principal role in Jason Reitman's "Labor Day" by Paramount Pictures and "Mona Lisa Smile" by Columbia Pictures.
We asked Matthew about his first experiences working in the theatre. He grew up in Winchester, Massachusetts, a town with a children's theater known for very professional productions. Matthew described one of his earliest theatrical experiences, as an eight year old watching his older sister perform in Snow White. He told us, "I was mesmerized. I knew I wanted to do that." He first acting role came the next year as a lost boy in Peter Pan. He was then fortunate to find an excellent theater program at his high school. The program's director, Brian Milauskas, has since gone on to found Next Door Theatre, a professional playhouse in Winchester.
Matthew continued his performance career while attending Harvard University as an undergraduate, singing in the renowned a cappella singing group, The Harvard Krokodiloes. "We would perform two or so shows a week around Cambridge and Boston, running around in our tuxedos. I also went on two eleven-week, five-continent summer world tours with the group. It was an incredible experience." After graduation, Matthew worked in business, but his natural talents drew back him to theater. He returned to Harvard to obtain his MFA at their prestigious graduate acting school, the A.R.T./MXAT Institute.
Even with Matthew's successful theatrical career, he continues to admire the work of others. He comments, "One of my favorite performances was Mark Rylance's in Jerusalem on Broadway. I'm also blown away by Tracy Letts. I saw his (Tony Award-winning) performance in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. He's won a Tony for acting and a Pulitzer for playwriting. As an actor and hopeful writer myself, he's a real role model."
We asked Matthew a little about his role as Jeffrey Cabot in Lives of Reason. "Jeffrey Cabot is a college professor and a poet, and as the surname suggests, a blue-blooded character, privileged and distinguished. At the start of the play, Jeffrey is a bit disillusioned: his long-held dream of a literary, artistic life are at odds with the realities of academia and its bureaucracy, competition, and insularity. In the play, he suddenly finds everything-his career, his marriage, his future-put on the line by the actions of his wife Ilona, the heroine of the play." Matthew said that in addition to action-packed drama, audiences will also be exposed to an interesting and entertaining debate about the state of academia and pedagogy.
This is the first time Matthew has performed at TRT and he is very impressed. "It's great. The theater is a wonderful space and the staff is incredible. It is a well-run organization."
Lives of Reason runs at Two River Theater from January 9th to February 7th. It is located at 21 Bridge Street, Red Bank, NJ 07701. For tickets and more information call 732.345.1400 or visit www.tworivertheater.org.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Matthew LIeff Christian