Rachel Miner, who made headlines for her marriage to fellow child star Macaulay Culkin, is now turning the tables her way with her portrayal of a massage parlor prostitute in Blue Surge. The gritty drama by Rebecca Gilman performs Off Broadway at the Public Theatre
Miner, who auditioned and won the role for the play's premiere at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, was familiar with the curt dialogue of the Chicago-based scribe. "I had done a reading a while back for her play The Glory of Living and so I knew her work and I loved it already," Miner told Playbill On-Line. [Glory — a Pulitzer Prize finalist — hit the New York stage earlier this year helmed by Philip Seymour Hoffman and starring Anna Paquin.] Miner added "I love her dialogue because, for one thing, no one ever seems to say, just like in real life, exactly what they mean."
The actress, who works both on stage and in film, revealed her involvement with this stagework versus a film. "It wasn't a huge conscious decision. So much in life just comes along at the right time." However among the "many factors" contributing to her interest was "working with certain people" notably Gilman and director Robert Falls. Citing the differences in genres, she said "In film, I think it's harder to find people taking chances on new good work; you see a lot of the same thing done over and over. And there's not a huge number of great parts and when there are," she exclaimed, "there's a lot of people competing for them."
The role of Sandy in Blue Surge requires for the young Miner to dress scantily, as did Paquin's Lisa in Glory. The actress, with a hesitant voice, explained, "I didn't consider it hugely. I got the part and I think two days later went out to Chicago, so there wasn't a lot of time to think about it. And when I saw the costumes, I was definitely... nervous" as she laughs. Though the actress convinces herself she is "in the head of the character" and it doesn't phase her "because this is what Sandy wears everyday, she's used to it, it's not a big deal to her," she confesses "if I see pictures of me in those outfits or when I'm just walking around and I happen to catch myself in the mirror, it's so like 'Oh my God, what am I doing,' but after a while you kind of get used to it."
Expectations are everything when it comes to acceptance. This is perhaps proven by the circumstances surrounding the premiere of the play at the Goodman Theatre versus the New York premiere. The highly subscriber based Goodman audience had expected Gilman's latest drama, The Great Baseball Strike of 1994, about the title event. However, in January, the schedule was shifted and the Chicago venue opted for Blue Surge instead. Miner explains the audiences' reaction, "they were really kind, I could tell there was a lot of people — subscribers and all — who were not so sure. Some of them weren't able to get it. Some of them it just took a little while to try to get into the play and understand that these are real people and get pass the fact that they were offended." New York audiences were expecting Suzan-Lori Parks' work Fuckin' A, a drama whose title alone might brace audiences for the worst. Perhaps such a set-up led to, as Miner said, "more open-minded audiences." Though she added, "Both places were great." Offering further, "It's a much smaller house [in New York] which is nice, actually, because it's such an intimate play that I think it really speaks better on a smaller stage. It was hard to get the message across to do those smaller two-people scenes in such a huge space in Chicago."
Audience acceptance aside, though, Miner is excited about her return to the New York stage. Her previous stage venture — in Broadway's The Diary of Anne Frank opposite Natalie Portman — was not as smooth a transfer as she had hoped. "We did [a pre-Broadway run] in Boston and I was hit by a car. So, I missed the opening and the couple months of the show in New York." She returned to the show a few months later and performed until it closed in June of 1998. Miner concluded, "No one has said 'Break a leg' to me ever since."
— by Ernio Hernandez