Jennifer Westfeldt Talks Traveling the Globe and Navigating a Man's World in The Explorers Club

By Carey Purcell
19 Jun 2013

Westfeldt and Donna Murphy in Wonderful Town
Westfeldt plays not one, but two women in The Explorers Club — Phyllida and Phyllida's sister Nell, an old-fashioned countess who differs greatly from her independent sibling — and cited the costumes by Anita Yavich as helping her with the transition between the characters.

She spoke highly of her fellow actors, of whom she is the only woman, saying, "I feel so humbled. They're the most talented, game, funny, generous group."

The ensemble of actors create some extremely comedic moments onstage; Westfeldt said she was unable to keep a straight face throughout when rehearsing. She feared that, during one scene when her character has fainted and is lying on a couch, the audience would see her laughing into the pillows.

"All of these guys went to drama school and had clown class," she said of her castmates, who she described as "jaw-droppingly" gifted physical comedians.



Delivering a message through comedy is a technique Westfeldt appreciates; she described "The Daily Show," "The Colbert Report" and "Real Time with Bill Maher" as the "triumvirate" of news sources. She said the same technique is utilized in The Explorers Club, whose comedy contributes to the impact of the play's message. "You can experience it as a purely comedic romp and delight, which I think it is, but actually we're talking about some serious topics underneath that. This is absolutely hysterical and actually really about something. That duality is such a gift to be a part of and to watch and to experience."

One of the themes of The Explorers Club that still felt relevant to Westfeldt was that of women being stigmatized to their gender and the continuing lack of progress in some areas of the world.

"The whole thread of rape comments during the election — what year are we in?" she said. "It's really true that as much progress that we think we're making and have made, there are many, many things that happen in a daily way that remind you of how certain parts of the country and certain people are not progressive."

Despite those attitudes, Westfeldt is hopeful for more change taking place in the future.

"More and more women are really trying to make their own rules," she said. "And the more women who have succeeded in this way, the more women who will succeed in this way... I think there's a wave we're riding that I hope just continues to soar."

As for enjoying some brandy and cigars herself?

"Between two shows it would be tricky," she said. "But I'll meet you after!"

The Explorers Club runs through July 21. New York City Center Box Office is at 131 W. 55th Street. For tickets, call CityTix at (212) 581-1212 or visit nycitycenter.org. For more information on MTC, visit ManahattanTheatreClub.com.