The Way Thomas Sadoski and Amanda Seyfried Get By
The stars of Neil LaBute's latest play talk stage fright, chemistry, and two-handers.
Doug and Beth drunkenly hook up during a wedding reception. The next morning, they find themselves dealing with the aftermath of a one-night stand. Welcome to the world of The Way We Get By, the latest work of prolific dramatist Neil LaBute, currently running at Second Stage Theatre.
As the only two characters in Leigh Silverman's production of the 80-minute dark comedy, it's a bit surprising that the two performers inhabited these roles had never actually met before the first reading. That would be Tony nominee Thomas Sadoski, a veteran of LaBute's reasons to be pretty, and Hollywood "it" girl Amanda Seyfried, making her stage debut after starring in films like Mean Girls and Mamma Mia! And yet, watching them volley LaBute's short, terse dialogue back and forth and chatting with them off-stage, it's as though the pair has known each other for years.
For Sadoski, it was his opportunity to get back to his theatrical roots after starring in Aaron Sorkin's HBO series The Newsroom. For Seyfried, this was the chance to make her long-awaited stage debut, and combat her even-longer-standing anxiety about performing in front of a live audience. On a break from rehearsal, the two shared their thoughts on this "perfect" match just and how challenging doing a two-hander really is.
Thomas, how did Neil pitch this play to you?
Thomas Sadoski: He sent it to me, and I think the e-mail went "Hey bro, got a new play, little bit of a departure for me, wanna take a look at it?" Which, if you know Neil at all, is speaking volumes, so I was like "oh my god, I gotta take a look at this." I read it that afternoon, I read it the next day again, and I got back to him. I had fallen in love with the story, the characters, and what he was doing with the play. It is a departure for him, in a really cool, really powerful way. That was his pitch and it took me less than no time to say I wanted to be a part of it.
It was you who brought Leigh Silverman on board, and this is the first LaBute play she's ever directed. What made you suggest her for the job?
Thomas: She's incredible. She's one of the most intelligent and soulful and articulate directors working today, period. And I mean that across any medium. I trust her implicitly. I trust her vision, I trust her heart, I trust her mind. I wanted to be back in the room with her. I haven't, for a millisecond, had anything even resembling a shadow of a doubt about that.
Amanda, how did you get involved?
Amanda Seyfried: I've been looking for a play for about five years. I really wanted to get out of this zone that I've been in for so long, feeling lazy as an actor. I wanted to fight this fear that I have of being onstage, all the anxiety I have in general of live audiences. I was going to do [LaBute's] The Shape of Things at one point. But for whatever reason, nothing's worked out until now. When I did this reading, I was like this is so obvious. I was so excited, just buzzing every day, moving everything I could possibly move to make it work. I just can't believe how much harder it is than I thought. I mean, a two-hander? Really? For my first play? What? You [gestures to Sadoski] made it feel so easy. Neil's writing made it feel so easy.
Thomas, as a stage veteran, how difficult is a LaButian two-hander for you?
Thomas: Yeah, it's a lot. The amazing thing about Neil's work is that it's always so full. There are so many roads to go down and so many opportunities. This one, in particular, as a two-hander in real-time, it's a significant undertaking. Neil's script may only reflect ninety pages, but he puts a lot of words on the ninety pages, because we end up overlapping each other. So there's probably twice as many lines and it ends up being one hundred eighty pages of dialogue. It's a lot, but there's legitimately no group of people that I would rather do it with.
Amanda: It's perfect.
You both seem to have a great chemistry, which is crucial to an enterprise like this.
Amanda: We're pretty similar in a lot of ways. We're chill. We get each other.
Thomas: We speak the same language on some sort of level.
Amanda: I trust him, and I've only known him for a month, which is saying a lot.
Is a theater of this intimate size more agreeable to you, Amanda, in combatting your stage fright, as opposed to a Broadway-sized house?
Amanda: I don't know. I don't know what it would feel like. It doesn't matter to me what the theater looks like. This looks like not a lot of people, but when it's dark, it could be going back so far. In terms of projection, and being kind of bullied my whole life about being too quiet, and not being trusted by certain people to do their plays because of my issues with projection, I have had no issues of that here.
Thomas: She doesn't have any issues with projection, and anyone who says that is a f**king idiot.
Amanda: Thank you. At first, when I saw this theater, I said "wow, this is so nice." It's small enough and the acoustics are great. But I don't think it makes a difference anymore. I mean, I certainly wouldn't want to do it at the Met.
Thomas: None of us would want to do it at the Met.