Get the Inside Scoop on Natasha, Pierre…’s Wicked Pair Amber Gray & Lucas Steele
January 31st, 2014
by Josh Ferri
Nothing is more dynamic than a dastardly duo; how can you take your eyes off them? And if you love a good villain combo the way we do, may we introduce Amber Gray and Lucas Steele, the scene-stealing pair who play the manipulative siblings Helene and Anatole in off-Broadway's War and Peace-inspired rock musical Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.
What was your first impression of your co-star?
My first thought concerning Lucas was, "how am I supposed to look at this person?!" It's embarrassing to admit, but I couldn't visually take him in for at least the first week of rehearsal. Lucas is stupidly beautiful. Just stunning. I found it confusing that he was real. I slowly built up my tolerance while he napped on breaks. Lucas loves a nap, so I had ample chances to creepily and secretly stare at him.
I first met Amber (very briefly) about a month before we started rehearsals for Comet. It was at a Russian vodka bar downtown, as part of a cast mixer our director had organized. It was her incredible sense of style that hit me first. I had no idea what she was wearing. Honestly, I didn't know if it was a dress, or a shirt, or what...all I knew was that it looked incredible on her. It wasn't long before I realized she could probably wrap a garbage bag around her while accessorizing with some craftily folded pages of the phone book, and most likely, still stop traffic. Also, most definitely emblazoned into my mind that evening, was her smile. A month after the vodka bar, she arrived at rehearsal, opened her mouth and sang. It was then that I ultimately realized her incredible sense of style was rooted far beyond her exterior.
What do you think it is that makes your performances gel so well together?
To my pleasant surprise, Lucas and I have natural chemistry. We are the odd couple that happened to fit well together. I think we gel mainly because we move well together. After a bit of practice, we quickly learned to physically listen to and read each other which is a great deal of fun every night. I feel completely safe with him on stage. Also, after so many shows, we have mastered the art of subliminal messages. It's all in the eyes...
I think Amber and I approach material via a similar process. I certainly don't want to put words into her mouth, but it seems as if there has always been an understood 'shorthand' between us. I don't remember us ever talking about how we were going define the unconventional relationship of the Kuragins as siblings; it all unfolded rather organically. Metaphorically speaking, I quickly sensed that she was someone I could be 'naked' with from the start. Without that intimacy and vulnerability at the core of their relationship, the rest of the grandeur (that slowly developed over time) would never ring true—it would simply be artifice. I have also observed a very interesting parallel she and I both share as performers—in that we are both completely commanding of an audience, while simultaneously being vulnerable to them. I think it is that 'push and pull' that draws the viewer to our characters, and ultimately, us to each other.
My favorite moment on stage with him/her is
Oh man, it's hard to pick! There may be a vague implication of incest that I recommend trying to spot. It's subtle, but one day Lucas started a gentle petting that has stuck. It's only a leg pet, but audience members, lucky enough to catch it, begin to wonder if we are more than siblings!
Amber and I spend about a total of 10 minutes on stage together; all of which are incrementally split up into one, two, or three minutes of time. Because of this, to create a well-rounded and layered relationship as complicated as the Kuragins, it requires many subtle, yet heavily loaded moments between them. One of my favorites happens at the end of a large section known as 'The Duel'. There is a moment in which I run across the room, embrace her from behind, and spin her around so we are looking directly into each other's eyes. Amber allows herself to live so beautifully in each moment, that I never quite know what her eyes will be telling me each night. It's always a surprise. This is a moment I treasure—the freshness...the life. With a scene partner like that, you can't help but for it to be a chain reaction on your own character's journey.
The most memorable performance we shared has been
Man, after 300 shows, the details all blend into one performance. I only have memory of the most rare and extreme situations. Recently, an entrance was missed which made everyone onstage super charged and present while the musicians vamped. Once we picked back up, we were in a moment where Anatole and Helene have been caught and are full of fear. Thankfully it was appropriate but the terror was real and palpable that night.
With the physical demands of our show, the countless stairs, numerous walkways, and endless navigation of the audience, the moments in my mind that stand out most, seem to involve one of us falling down…and it's usually me. There was a moment last year, when we first did the production at Ars Nova, in which Anatole would react to his sister after he first met Natasha. In similar staging to the current production, Anatole cooly glides through the room while Natasha sings her beautiful aria. I would usually arrive near Amber, put my hand on my heart and sigh with incredulous delight. One evening, I got a touch too carried away with my sigh, and I stepped backward, onto another small, yet raised level of the 'stage'. My foot slipped off, and I began to topple backward until I landed on my butt next to an audience member nearby. Amber tried to reach for me while it was all happening, but we were just out of arms length. I'll never forget the look on her face—one of horror and absolute delight. We both laughed it off (in character of course!) and she helped me up. We then paraded across the room, in true Kuragin style, like nothing had gone wrong at all. When we got off stage we giggled like children.
My co-star and I bond over
Audience energy! We have a few games, or backstage shenanigans, we play. The game, of course, depends on the type of house we have. I should leave it at that...but I will say, sometimes the "war" part of the novel is re-enacted.
Food. Stress. Relationships. Life. Love. Art. Laughter. Tents. Tears.
I’m envious of my co-star’s ability to
Strut! Listen! Belt!
Indulge in the melodrama and decadence Great Comet requires! A lot of my cast mates excel at this ability, but it is so endlessly fun to watch him pour himself into the peacock that is Anatole night after night!
Steal Act 1 with her amazing version of Helene's signature song entitled "Charming."