"Here we are, 200-and-some performances later," said Edward Albee, harkening back to the Broadway opening of his latest play, The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? Albee was speaking at a press conference this morning to introduce the two new stars of the production, Sally Field and Bill Irwin. After noting that The Goat had received a number of "stupid" reviews (along with several very positive notices), Albee maintained that he has been vindicated by the public. "Every night that I go to see the play now, at the end of it, there are standing ovations," he said. "There's an audience that understands what we're doing and cares a lot about it."
The two-time Academy Award-winning Field and the Tony Award-winning Irwin are taking over the starring roles in the show from Mercedes Ruehl and Bill Pullman as of September 13. At this morning's press event, held at the Angus McIddoe restaurant on West 44th Street, the stars and Albee happily chatted with reporters and posed for photos. "I was aware of the play when it opened because I read the reviews and I saw Mercedes and Bill speaking about it on television," Field told TheaterMania, "but I had not been to New York to be able to see it since it opened. Then Scott Rudin, one of the producers, called me and said that Mercedes and Bill were leaving and he wanted me to come and do it. So I read it and I said, 'Okay!'" Though The Goat will mark the Broadway debut of this film and TV star, Field noted that "I have been on stage regionally a lot throughout my career."
"She came to see the show right before Bill and Mercedes left," Albee told TheaterMania of Field. "She didn't want to see it until she had been in rehearsal for a couple of weeks and was secure in what she was doing. But, obviously, she had read the play and a few people had told her that it was okay. She wanted to do it, so I did my little investigating; I asked some people she had worked with to tell me about her and what they thought about her playing the part. The response that I got from everybody was, 'Wow, that would be wonderful.' I was familiar with her film work, but, you know -- there are some people who can be great on film but can't even walk across stage without tripping. Sally is very, very good in the play, and so is Bill. First rate. It's a different family now, but the same people. An interesting paradox."
Directed by David Esbjornson, The Goat won the 2002 Tony Award for Best Play, in addition to Best Play honors from the New York Drama Critics Circle, the Drama Desk, and the Outer Critics Circle. It concerns the emotional turmoil that results when a rich, successful, well-liked husband and father is forced to confess to his wife and son that he has fallen in love with a barnyard animal. Jeffrey Carlson and Stephen Rowe are continuing in their original roles of, respectively, the son and a close family friend.
Asked if the work of Field and Irwin during rehearsals has, perhaps, brought out nuances in The Goat that the author himself hadn't realized, Albee replied: "Whenever I find in an actor's performance of a play of mine something that I hadn't considered the possibility of, it's something wrong. Any play that's any good has enough latitude in it that there are lots of ways of getting to the same goal."