For Perez, Chamberlin and McNally, The Ritz is All Work and Play

News   For Perez, Chamberlin and McNally, The Ritz is All Work and Play
"We're like little kids running around having fun," said Rosie Perez about Kevin Chamberlin and their castmates in the current Broadway revival of Terrence McNally's The Ritz.

The Roundabout Theatre Company presentation of the large ensemble comedy —  directed by Joe Mantello — is now in previews at Studio 54. The show officially opens there Oct. 11.

At a recent press event, playwright McNally said the 1975 play is being revived "because [Roundabout] thought it would be fun for an audience. The director Joe Mantello said, 'I've never had more fun doing a play, and neither has the cast,' and I said, 'Well, that's the point of doing this!' This is a farce, and you want the audience to share that joy."

A self-professed lover of farce, McNally recalled The Ritz being a departure for him, which made it all the more appealing. "I like not to repeat myself. I wanted to do something different. I've always loved the Bert Lahrs and Milton Berles. I've got pretty low taste in humor."

Though McNally has not revised the work for the new staging — he says "a playwright, if you left him to his own resources, could be in rehearsal with his first play for the rest of his life" — the author vividly remembered "how much work it was. I said, 'I'll never write another farce. They're too hard!' A farce needs a lot of fine-tuning. . It's nice you don't have to write any funny lines. You say, 'I think I'll go in the next room,' and the audience falls apart because they know what they'll see in the next room. It's the getting to that point to make it funny that takes a lot of work and the plotting to make sure the audience knows who is going to be behind that door."

Star Chamberlin says acting in a farce is not any easier than writing one. "It's incredibly technical, farce. As soon as one door slams, another door has to open. The problem with acting in a farce is that you get bruised a lot. I am covered in bruises from rehearsals. I have to slide under beds, and I'm not a thin guy. I was like, 'Can you raise the bed a little?' We have to fit, at one point, three people under a twin-sized bed." His secret solution: "Terry cloth! It works well for sliding." The actor said his casting in the show was quite simple. "Joe Mantello came to see me in Dirty Blonde seven years ago, and he came backstage and he said, 'I want to do The Ritz with you and Rosie Perez. I don't know when, I don't know how, but it's going to happen.' Luckily, I had a break in my schedule, so it worked out perfectly."

Perez said she was first approached about The Ritz while starring in the revival of another McNally opus, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune. "[During Frankie and Johnny] was when Joe asked me if I wanted to do The Ritz," Perez said. "Terrence was saying to him, 'I want to work with Rosie again.' It was a huge compliment. To be honest… you learn not to believe anybody in this business," explained Perez. "And then six years later, he's like, 'Are you ready to do The Ritz?' I was like, 'Yes!'"

<i>The Ritz</i> author Terrence McNally with Rosie Perez and Kevin Chamberlin.
The Ritz author Terrence McNally with Rosie Perez and Kevin Chamberlin. Photo by Aubrey Reuben
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