Stage Kiss Star Jessica Hecht Breaks Down Why Blanche DuBois Ranks as Her #1
February 27th, 2014
by Josh Ferri
One of New York’s most celebrated theater actresses, Jessica Hecht returns to the stage in the New York premiere of Sarah Ruhl’s romantic comedy Stage Kiss at Playwrights Horizons. The new play about two actors whose onstage romance bleeds into their offstage lives co-stars Nurse Jackie’s Dominic Fumusa and runs off-Broadway through March 23.
Since 1997, when she made her Broadway debut as Lala Levy in The Last Night of Ballyhoo, Hecht has appeared in a variety of Main Stem drama and comedies, ranging from Shakespeare to Neil Simon.
Among her numerous off-Broadway credits, Hecht gave memorable performances in Stop Kiss, Lobster Alice, Flesh and Blood and Three Sisters. She’s also featured in the films Sideways, J. Edgar and Dan in Real Life.
Of course to television fans, Hecht is probably best known as Susan Bunch, the lady who stole Ross Geller’s wife, on Friends or Walter White’s former flame Gretchen Schwartz on Breaking Bad.
So with all these stage credits, TV roles and film appearances, it came as a surprise that the role that changed Jessica Hecht’s life and career was a performance New York audiences never got to see. Below, Hecht explains why she considers playing Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire at Williamstown Theatre Festival the ultimate game-changer.
“Although we only did it for a very short time, it was a deeply illuminating and affirming experience. Not only because it’s one of the greatest plays ever written or because it’s probably the greatest role I’ll ever do, but I feel doing Streetcar was incredibly affecting to me. Doing Blanche or Willy Loman, you grapple with a sense of life beyond what you will hopefully experience. I worked with Sam Rockwell (who I so admire) on that play for almost a year before—just reading the play and talking about it. He has a certain strength of character that he said I want to do this part and I want to work on it with you, and that was incredibly affirming as an actor to have someone you so believe in offer that to you. I also think David Cromer has a superior understanding of [Tennessee] Williams, and not in a way that everybody feels they should approach it. David’s understanding of the simplicity of the stories that are being told and how to approach it from this very basic storytelling vantage was so illuminating to me as an actor; I really think it changed the way I thought about acting, because you have to tell the story. No matter how much emotion you can generate, the story is the story and you have to tell all the points. I found it profoundly moving. It made me want to teach more because I think his understanding of how to tell these stories relates to the kind of acting that I’m interested in. It illuminated what I would hope to do with any great part; and the idea that I could actually maybe play a great part and systematically do it this way was just thrilling. The combination of David and Sam was very moving for me. You reach a point in your career where what else can you hope for than peers you really admire wanting to do something truly substantial together? My next hope would be to do The Night of the Iguana, another great Williams character. So we’ll see.”
Don’t miss Hecht and Fumusa heat up Playwrights Horizons in Stage Kiss, now through March 23.