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ShowTickets Q&A: Rose Byrne of ‘Medea’

Category Broadway

|by Jeryl Brunner |


“You feel for this woman who is broken.”

In this modern take on the story of Medea, Anna (Rose Byrne) is a brilliant research scientist. She sacrificed her career and did all she could to make her husband and scientist colleague Lucas (Bobby Cannavale) a standout. But her world completely unravels when she discovers that Lucas has been unfaithful. Written and directed by Simon Stone, the performances in this contemporary drama are riveting, even funny at times. The sparse set and staging allows the audience focus on the actors’ raw emotion. Now playing at BAM Harvey Theater through March 8th only, the cast also features Victor Almanzar, Gabriel Amoroso, Dylan Baker, Jordan Boatman, Emeka Guindo, Orson Hong Jolly Swag and Madeline Weinstein. Byrne’s vast list of credits includes Damages, Bridesmaids, You Can’t Take It with You, the upcoming Gloria Steinem series Mrs. America, and the new movie Like A Boss.

Rose Byrne stars as the title character in Simon Stone's 'MEDEA' (Photo: Richard Termine)

Rose Byrne stars as the title character in Simon Stone's 'MEDEA' (Photo: Richard Termine)

What went through your mind when you heard about this production?
Rose Byrne: It stopped me in my tracks. I thought, “Wait a second. This is not like any other kind of experience.” It was the material and Simon (Stone). I had known Simon socially for years in Australia, and seen many of his productions in Australia and abroad. I love what he does with theater, and his take on it. I have known many actors who have worked and collaborated with him and how much they loved it. But the opportunity came out of the blue. It was one of those very surprising jobs. At first I was very nervous. It’s a huge ask on a family. My main concern is, “How do we keep our family happy?” But we figured it out. The pros all outweighed the cons.

Your character, Anna, does some horrible things. Yet I felt so much compassion for her. How do you make her human and compassionate?
RB: It's really in Simon's hands. The text he has written is so compassionate towards Anna in ways I never expected to feel. You feel for this woman who is broken. Simon has told the story as a way of examining the human condition and a marriage. He explores everything a woman does in a marriage: working, being high-functioning, being a mother, a wife, a colleague, a boss. It’s a great chance to explore all of that. So the shock value of MEDEA wears off. Once I read it, I thought, “This is about how you get to that broken place, and what happened before. What are the steps it took to get to that?” That made me have empathy, and believe that I could find a way into her.

What do you do to take care of yourself when working on a play?
RB:
I swim, go to a gym, train. I try to mix it up, especially when doing this play. It doesn't pull any punches. It takes a lot of energy to do theater, which is why Bobby is so brilliant, because he has so much energy.

How did becoming a mother change you?
RB: When I had kids, I felt like life began. It's a fundamental shift. It’s beyond just an extension of you. It’s a priority and something that is always at the forefront of your brain the whole time. It’s a fascinating kind of evolution in your brain and how it's structured to fit that in.

How do you turn it off when you go home and get back to Rose?
RB:
The kids couldn't care less if I was doing a play. It’s make me my toast or come and build blocks with me. It’s the most grounding thing to have a family. And so in a way, it's very easy to leave leave work at work and come home.

What was one of the first Broadway shows you ever saw?
RB: A View From The Bridge with Anthony LaPaglia at Neil Simon Theatre. I was probably in my late teens and was traveling to New York with my family. I had already seen a production in Australia when I was a teenager. I remember it was brilliant. (She and Cannavale are doing a production of A View From The Bridge in Australia with at the Sydney Theatre Company this December.)

What is great about working with Bobby?
RB:
 Bobby is an an actor's actor. In all the scenes, he’s so present. He never tries to steal anything. He just tries to give and make it better. Bobby is never trying to overtake a scene. A lot of actors can be greedy, but he is not like that. Also, his first love is theater. It’s his church. He is never happier than when he's in a rehearsal space. He’s fully, truly himself. He also has enough energy for ten men and brings all his curiosity and wonder to the space.

I love that you and Bobby are Brooklynites. What keeps you in New York?
RB: We have traveled a lot. We go to my home in Sydney, Australia a lot. And also, we travel for work. There's a lot of traveling still. But Brooklyn is home. We love it here. For now, this is where we are. Home is actually where we are all together. But it has been a joy to be able to walk to work.

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