One of the more remarkable aspects of the Public Theater's production of Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe's musical The Wild Party, now previewing at Broadway's Virginia Theatre, is the depth of its cast. In addition to front liners Mandy Patinkin, Eartha Kitt and Toni Collette, the troupe features a host of lesser-known, but experience-rich Broadway veterans. Among them are Norm Lewis (Side Show) as brutish boxer Eddie; Tonya Pinkins (Tony-nominated for Play On!) as home wrecker and party girl, Kate; Jane Summerhays (Me and My Girl, Lend Me a Tenor) as predatory lesbian, Miss Madelaine True; and Marc Kudisch as ex-con and glamour boy, Jackie. Kudisch is veteran of several of the more splashy musicals of recent years, including Beauty and the Beast, The Scarlet Pimpernel and High Society. He usually plays one of the bad guys, but never anyone as dark as Jackie. Kudisch talked to Playbill On-Line about his latest role.
Playbill On-Line: So, how does Jackie rank among the reprobates that populate The Wild Party?
Marc Kudisch: Oh, my. If there was a bottom-feeder in this group, Jackie's it. He's different from [Mandy Patinkin's character] Burrs and yet he's similar, too. He's one of those people who can't stop moving. And he doesn't. He's like a shark; it's how he breathes. And also he's so damned wired all the time.
PBOL: From Gaston in Beauty and the Beast to George Kittredge in High Society to Chauvelin in Pimpernel, and now Jackie, you don't play a lot of good guys. Why's that?
MK: I think it's for a couple reasons. I generally think I end up playing these kind of characters, one, because I can usually bring a sense of humor to it, and, two, I naturally have a dark side to my personality. As a person, I have an edgy personality. I don't consider myself to be a bad person, per se, but I can bring that stuff up pretty easily. I can bring humor to a role, without it being just for flat-out laughs. Gaston is a very funny character -- he's very funny and very likable, but given the right set of circumstances he can turn on a dime on you. Kittredge isn't necessarily dark, but very driven, so there's a different kind of edge there. I found him very lovable and a fun person, but very driven, like a rhino. Kittredge is the kind of guy that if you run on an angle, you can get out of his way, because he's not witty. But don't stand directly in front of him; he will run you over. Just a very black-and-white kind of guy. Chauvelin, there's a humor there in the discomfort of his being in the presence of a different kind of wit. He's not stupid by any stretch of the imagination, but that was a time period when people didn't hide behind a personality when they battled. They stood out in an open field and the best guy was the guy who was left standing. And Percy was hiding behind a different personality. And the humor is in watching a person who was so close [to the man he sought] he could smell it, but he couldn't find him. With Jackie, it's a very different story. He's just Jackie. There's a very boyish quality to him, but there is a complete lack of a sense of consequence and morality. In my point of view, it's completely innocent. No one would agree with what I'm saying, it's just me the actor; it's my own logic for the character. If there's a difference between Jackie and Burrs, I just think Jackie is a more innocent person than Burrs. It doesn't make him better. And, quite honestly, I think people view me at the end of the evening as the worst person on the stage.
PBOL: How would you characterize this show's approach to the Joseph Moncure March poem, "The Wild Party"?
MK: All the characters in the show, they're very detailed. Our play is about behaviorism. Is there a plot to the show?--not really; it's a party, it's an evening where you get to meet these people. The ark of the play is really the ark of the evening. I think it's fascinating watching and being invited in to these people's worlds. Jackie's bisexual, he's very hedonistic, he's very much into that whole Village scene at the time, which was very hedonistic, but in a very innocent way. Nobody knew there were any consequences to the stuff [they were doing]. Come on, man, they were still selling Coca-Cola with cocaine in it. They didn't know yet.
PBOL: I see in your Playbill bio, you openly refer to The Scarlet Pimpernel as version "3.0." What was it like being in that constantly evolving show?
MK: I had a great time. I always wanted to do it. Initially, I auditioned for it and I was too young. The second time, I wasn't around. The third time, I think [director] Bobby Longbottom just liked what I was doing and decided he wanted to try a younger angle. Frankly, I'm glad I did it when I did, because they had already worked out what wasn't working. I saw the first version and I enjoyed it, but structurally, I thought there were a lot of things that needed to be done. I didn't have to go through the stress or strain of watching structure being fixed or not fixed, decisions being made for the right or wrong reasons. The show was a lot more formed than it was the first time. So, we just got to rehearse and get to know the characters. PBOL: Are you still involved in the new musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie?
MK: Yeah. As it stands now, yeah. My fiancee [Kristin Chenoweth] was doing it -- that was one of the great things about it. Now she's not.
PBOL: Would that have been your first project together?
MK: No, we'd worked together before. We did the workshop of Steel Pier. We worked together in the regions. But, now, there's this terrible news: They're developing a television show around her. [Laughs] It would have been a great time, but I'm planning to be in the production. And I play the good guy!
PBOL: Does he get the girl?
MK: No. I never get the girl.
PBOL: Except in real life.
MK: Except in real life. And that's where it needs to happen. So, I don't care. And, while I love this show [The Wild Party, boy, oh boy, I've got to tell you, it will be an emotional relaxation to do Millie.
--By Robert Simonson