Review Fix chats with actor and director Patricia Lynn who discusses the Hunger and Thirst Theatre Company’s revival of Philip Barry’s ‘The Animal Kingdom’ later this month at the Theatrelab in New York City.
For more information on the production and to buy tickets, click here.
Review Fix: What was the inspiration behind this revival?
Patricia Lynn: Hunger and Thirst is always drawn to classic works that are still relevant today. The Animal Kingdom is not in the classical genre, but we think it should be 500 years from now. The basic struggle of the choice we have to make about our lives (should we marry, settle down, and get a real job? Or continue artistic pursuits?) is something that all of us struggle with today in New York. This theme is what really drew us to this piece.
Review Fix: Why do you think the production is rarely re-done?
Lynn: I’m actually not so sure. It’s so fascinating. It did fairly well on Broadway when it was first produced, and there was a mildly successful movie as well. I think this 1930s style of comedy can be tricky to do well, which may be why it’s not very popular.
Also, the subject matter could be unappealing to some; most of the blurbs and descriptions of this play state that it is about how a man’s relationship with his mistress may be stronger and healthier than his relationship with his wife. But we don’t view the play in those kinds of black-and-white terms; Tom’s relationships with the two women in his life are much more complicated and interesting than that (which is what drew us to this play).
Review Fix: What makes it so special?
Lynn: The language is so vibrant-when spoken aloud, the words bounce and sparkle, if that makes any sense. The complexity of the relationships between all of the characters–not just between the members of the love triangle–is also very special. I always love when I find stories that don’t have clear-cut heroes and villains. I’d much rather see real, flesh-and-blood people who have both strengths and flaws, good sides and bad sides.
Review Fix: How is your version different?
Lynn: Just performing this play in 2015 instantly makes it different. When the play was first produced in 1932, this genre often used realism in terms of the design. Our director, Jacob Titus, described it best when he said that this a comedy of manners being invaded by surrealism. We will be incorporating that idea into our aesthetic, as well as letting the actors’ performances transport the audience to the 1930s rather than super-realistic, period-specific design elements.
Review Fix: What was the casting process like?
Lynn: In some ways, it was really easy–in other ways, really difficult! There are a lot of talented actors out there and we saw a lot of them. However, most of the time, you know within the first 15 seconds after the actor walks into the room (sometimes even before he/she starts to read the scene) if they are right for the role. It does really come down to a certain look or an energy that the actor naturally has.
Review Fix: Who among the cast stands out the most to you?
Lynn: All of them–we are lucky to have a very talented group of actors to work with. Wait until you see them.
Review Fix: How does this production connect with the Theatre Company’s vision?
Lynn: As I mentioned, Hunger and Thirst is drawn to classic works that we find still relevant today, and The Animal Kingdom definitely is. We also are drawn to ensemble pieces that really highlight all of the actors involved. We love that although the basic plot focuses on the Tom-Cecelia-Daisy love triangle, all of the other characters are rich, interesting, and contribute to the story. As a company that stresses the value of community, it’s important to us to find plays that allow as many artists to be involved as possible and feature them in the best possible way.
Review Fix: How do you want this version of the production to be remembered?
Lynn: As a heartfelt, funny, sincere, and modern take on a 1930s comedy of manners. That we were able to take a story that seems very black-and-white on some levels and find all of the shades of gray.