Power Couple Interviews, Part One: Meet the Janssens
The moment has come for my FINAL blog post – a bittersweet moment, to be sure. Both shows have successfully opened, and to celebrate, I have something special for you guys: Exclusive interviews with the power couples of the summer. I talked to Matt Castleman and Alani Kravitz (Lars and Paige Janssen) and Jared Graham and Charlene V. Smith (Macbeth and Lady Macbeth) about their characters’ relationships, likes and dislikes, and what they want the audience to know about them.
Part One of the post features the Janssens of Dinner. Be sure to check out Part Two to hear from the Macbeths!
Susannah Clark: What is your name, your role(s), and your previous appearances with 4615/most recent appearances in the DC area?
Matt Castleman: My name’s Matthew Castleman, and Dinner is my first 4615 appearance! [SC note – Matt also serves as our fight choreographer for Macbeth.] I have recently been seen in the premiere of People for Whom the World Spins and Turns with the Essential Theatre and Much Ado About Nothing with Annapolis Shakespeare.
Alani Kravitz: Alani Kravitz, playing Paige in Dinner (and a Witch/Lady Macduff in Macbeth). Most recently seen in 4615’s production of Waxing West, where I played a vampire ghost version of Elena Ceausescu. Hard to top that one.
SC: What are the biggest similarities between these two sets of couples? What are the biggest differences?
MC: I think Lars and Paige could be on the path that the Macbeths are on if it continued unopposed and didn’t end tragically. Lars, like Macbeth, is a man who did fundamentally change who he was, who sold out for power and wealth, working in concert with his wife. Now, years later, the glow of the money has faded and he wonders what he’s done with his life and what he should do with the rest of it. He wants to try to find the person he used to be, who cared about things and thought deeply about the world, and Paige, his accomplice in selling out, may not be on board with that.
AK: Well, I’m going to try to give as little away as possible here, so apologies if I am vague. Our hashtag is #dontspoildinner for a reason! Both sets of couples have - or had, in the case of Dinner - ambition. And they like to throw parties. But the biggest difference is absolutely how much love is left in their relationships. In Macbeth, they actually have quite a good, functional relationship, even as the deeds they do become darker and darker. In Dinner, the love has all but dried up, and it has simply been too long for them to circle back and figure out what to do. They’re marriage procrastinators, and it’s too late now.
SC: As actors, how do you go about getting to know your stage-spouse in such a short rehearsal process?
AK: It’s not easy! It’s especially complicated when the relationship itself is so strained and dangerous, because I happen to really like my Lars (Hi Matt). We have established a very safe and kind relationship with each other offstage, so when we throw verbal knives at each other’s hearts onstage, we can come back to that safe space on breaks.
MC: In this case, Stevie had some improv exercises for us to do early on in the rehearsals, and they really helped flesh out the background between Lars and Paige that’s only hinted at a few times in the text. The other thing is just to talk a lot as we go through the process and build our little world.
SC: Audiences will likely be much more unfamiliar with Lars and Paige than they are with the Macbeths. What is the most important thing audiences should know about your characters before coming to see the show?
MC: That they weren’t always like this. This tense, dry, barbed marriage is a state that’s taken years to calcify.
AK: That Paige Janssen does NOT make mistakes. Keep it in mind while watching.
Finally, I asked the couples to play the Newlywed Game. I asked them questions about their characters, and they had to answer for both themselves and their spouses.
SC: What is your/your partner’s favorite drink?
MC: Lars’ favorite drink is a Godfather (scotch and amaretto). Paige claims to be drinking Pinot Grigio, but it’s really vodka with a splash of limoncello.
AK: I drink Dom Perignon champagne. Not the pink stuff; I’m not a child. If that’s not available, neat vodka. Lars tells people his favorite is Macallan neat, but it’s really Appletinis. He calls them “Citrotinis,” but we all know it’s Appletinis.
SC: What is your/your partner’s favorite book?
MC: Lars would say Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, in spite of – or possibly because of – the fact that he’s so utterly failed to live by them. Paige likes the original Ian Fleming Bond novels.
AK: I’m not much of a reader; that’s Lars’ territory. But I did enjoy seeing Hedda Gabler at the theatre and bought the book for myself. Lars’ is the one he wrote, of course: Beyond Belief. Try to stump me there.
SC: Favorite song/band?
MC: Lars’ is ‘Limelight’ by Rush; Paige’s is ‘I Hate Myself for Loving You’ by Joan Jett.
AK: Lars loves opera, which I find surprising since so much emotion is involved. His favorite is The Woman Without a Shadow, which has recently been called “the most pretentious opera of all time”. I like anything by Wagner.
SC: Favorite place to travel?
MC: Lars likes any ancient ruins. Paige prefers a Swiss ski lodge – not to ski, but to enjoy the fireplace bar and look at the snow.
AK: I quite like going to the London Zoo. Lars adopted a penguin for my birthday and his name is Beaky. Bit derivative, but I suppose I found it charming at the time. Lars will probably say Rome or Athens - anywhere he can sniff out the great philosophers of the past and rip them off for profit.
SC: Worst habit?
MC: Lars’ worst habit is introspection that goes in circles forever instead of actually finding anything. Paige’s is humming absentmindedly to herself.
AK: I suppose some would say I drink too much and I am “mean”. To which I say: I would be much meaner if I didn’t drink as much as I do. As for Lars - I thought this was supposed to be a quick interview! I simply do not have four days to list them all.
Dinner is officially open, so be sure to get your tickets now – and remember to check out Part Two for my interview with the Macbeths!