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‘Marvin’s Room’ Moves to Broadway With Women Front and Center

JANEANE GAROFALO I was just going through the calendar, and I was like, wait, what? And then I saw: previews. But — but — but — it’s only a handful of days away.


Diane Keaton, left, and Meryl Streep in the 1996 film “Marvin’s Room.”

Phil Caruso/Miramax Films

WESTON It’s called terror.

LILI TAYLOR Which we all have, by the way.

How did this production come together?
ANNE KAUFFMAN When I came to New York in the early 90s to be a director, this was playing. So, to be reintroduced to myself as a younger person is thrilling. This many years later, I’ve gone through losing a parent. We’re middle-aged. Things are falling apart. We’ve dealt with family members who are ill, and this play is all about what it is to take care of another person.

TAYLOR The summer thing wasn’t great for me, with a kid. I was like, I don’t know, but I’ll take the meeting with Anne. And then, within two minutes, I was like [giving in] “I’ll do it.” It just felt really right. That was my story.

GAROFALO I just auditioned for Annie and Todd [Haimes, the Roundabout artistic director]. Surprisingly I got it, because I never get stuff I audition for. Especially plays.

WESTON I had an offer through my agent. I was just thrilled, because I had heard such lovely things about Annie and so happy to be working with a woman director. And I hate that we even have to say that, still. But she was directing a play with three very rich women characters and a family dynamic and all that. I thought, yes, please.

Janeane and Lili, had you two met before doing this play?
GAROFALO You don’t remember this, but I met you backstage at “Three Sisters.” I think that’s the only time we’ve been in the same room. But I felt like I knew you because she’s on HBO every night with “The Conjuring.”
TAYLOR We’ve auditioned for similar roles. I don’t believe I’ve seen you, but I feel like I’ve been aware of you.
GAROFALO We’re a similar type, although you have more versatility. I would more likely be the chagrined, hardass, bitter woman. Whereas you have an earnestness.
TAYLOR You have the comedy thing, too — the funny bone.
GAROFALO I read an article about you, and you were quoted as saying you had to gain weight for “Dogfight,” and you couldn’t. I remember going, “What the [expletive]?!?” I was like, I will knock her out.
TAYLOR Believe me. You don’t want six meals a day. It’s intense. And my metabolism is fast.
GAROFALO See, this isn’t endearing. Don’t say that. [laughter]

Did you have the luxury of doing chemistry reads before you committed to your cast?
KAUFFMAN I don’t even understand them. If I’m going to try to read two people together, I don’t know where to look.

WESTON Chemistry reads only lead to unnatural sex acts. The lengths to which people will go, to say: “Yeah! Our chemistry is A-plus.”

GAROFALO Celia, do you have any stories?
WESTON I do, actually, and I’m censoring myself.

Have you been helping one another out with your preparations as performances get closer?
GAROFALO Lili taught me a technique for line memorization, based on a book you read on memory retention and neuroplasticity or something like that?
TAYLOR A smorgasbord of books.
GAROFALO It’s a repetition of threes. You say everything three times in a row, almost in a mechanical way. Just go through it like a robot. Every morning, before we come in, I go through the script and I do the drills. And then we’re standing here, and it’s gone. [laughter] And it makes me feel so many things.

TAYLOR It’s new feelings coming in, new impulses that you wouldn’t have by yourself. And all of a sudden there’s another human being giving you stuff. So it’s not a bad thing.

WESTON You said it, it’s technique. All young actors want it. If everybody could just go to Marshalls and get it at a discount, we would. It only comes with experience. I can remember as a student of Uta Hagen, doing Constance in “King John,” at 20-something years old, playing a character who’s lost her son, everyone that was around her is dead. When you’re too young to have had an experience, you have to write a little soap opera in your head, so that you can bring it to a stage and live it.


Jack DiFalco and Janeane Garofalo in “Marvin’s Room,” opening Thursday, June 29, at American Airlines Theater

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

It’s still uncommon on Broadway to see a female-directed production with a prominently female cast. Why do you think that is?
KAUFFMAN I turn that back on you. It’s a question that’s asked at every panel I’m on, every time I’m interviewed. People say women are hired on proving themselves several times, and men are hired on potential. And I think that’s probably true. My style of working is, I don’t come in with a plan that’s like, “This is what this is, and we’re going to do it this way.” I’m like: “I don’t know. Let’s figure this out. Let’s make something.” Producers want to be told, “This is what it’s going to look like, and it’s going to be successful.” I could probably say this is going to be successful, but I don’t quite know what it’s going to look like.

TAYLOR It comes from the top. John Ridley, who I just did the TV show “American Crime” with, is great about having more female directors than male directors, more people of minority backgrounds. But those bosses are few and far between.

GAROFALO Unfortunately, even us having this conversation is part of the problem. To even take a moment to discuss this, it’s like, I’m always asked, will you do a panel of women in comedy? No. Because we’re ghettoizing ourselves.

TAYLOR I do think the conversation is important. My problem with these panels is, it just feels like we’re speaking to the converted.

“Marvin’s Room” is traditionally set in the 1990s. Are you doing anything to modernize it?
KAUFFMAN It feels, already, by casting these three women, it’s a 2017 interpretation of the play. We’re setting it in the ’90s mostly so that Janeane can smoke onstage. It has to be the ’90s.

GAROFALO It would change everything if there was social media. The kids would be on their phones the whole time.

KAUFFMAN There have to be real reasons for them to not actually be in touch with each other for 20 years.

TAYLOR If there’s Facebook, we probably would have at least checked each other’s status.

WESTON My character has this implantation of electrodes to relieve her of chronic, debilitating pain. I asked my niece, who is a doctor, and she sent me pictures of a couple of her patients, who actually have these control boxes, to see what they look like currently. They still have them.

GAROFALO An iPhone would ruin that. Don’t they actually affect people’s defibrillators and stuff?

If I had to choose between my iPhone and my health, I think I’d still pick my phone.
KAUFFMAN I’m with you.
WESTON Young people. I still have a flip phone.

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