In Audrey Cefaly‘s uplifting comedy, Maytag Virgin, FST Associate Artist Rachel Moulton plays Lizzy Nash, a quick-witted English teacher taking a break from the classroom after losing someone close to her. Moulton has the unique artistic challenge of not only having to memorize a vast majority of the play’s dialogue but also having to tell the story of Lizzy’s complex (and very human) emotional journey.
We sat down with Rachel to learn more about how she feels about returning to the FST stage, how she navigates playing such a multi-faceted character, and what she loves most about playwright Audrey Cefaly’s writing.
Maytag Virgin is a charming comedy centered on two next-door neighbors: Lizzy Nash (who you play) and Jack Key (played by Blake Price). What are some of the challenges of performing a two-hander like this, which requires you to be on stage for almost two hours straight?
This has been, without question, one of the most challenging shows I have ever tackled. It has also been, by far, the most rewarding. I think the biggest challenge with a two-hander of this magnitude has been maintaining my focus and stamina, as well as preserving my physical and vocal health. Since your body and heart do not necessarily physiologically recognize that going on a character’s emotional rollercoaster night after night is not “real,” it feels real to your body. I try to listen to my body and nurture myself as best I can.
And the lines. Oh, the lines – these were the second biggest challenge! Lizzy has the bulk of the dialogue in this play. She really does not stop talking, especially in the first act. While most two-person plays are about 80-90 minutes, Maytag Virgin is a full-length, two-hour play. As a character, Lizzy has so many layers. Being able to just get the lines in my brain and body so I could really start to dig in and mine her truth was challenging for me. I did a lot of prep work before we began rehearsals, and I still spent hours each day before (and after) rehearsals running lines. Honestly, I sit with this script every day reviewing the play’s text and the beats within each scene. It’s something I love to do, but I also see as my responsibility.
What do you most enjoy about being in a production like this?
I think the rehearsal process is always my favorite – what a ride it has been! But I also love how the audiences have been experiencing the show. The last scene, which is also the most intimate, might be my favorite because the audience’s reactions are a lot more palpable. And the whole play is just so much fun!
Also, working with Blake Price (who plays Jack Key) has been one of my greatest joys about this experience. We have developed a wonderful working relationship. We check in with one another before and after every performance and we meet once a week before the show to run lines.
During the rehearsal process, we discovered—with the guidance of our director, Kate Alexander—how much of a duet Maytag Virgin truly is. It is a tennis match or a dance. And I am lucky enough to be performing opposite someone who takes that very seriously. We both do. We are “in it” 100% moment by moment, playing every beat with each other. Blake is an incredible scene partner. He is all heart. He is so talented, so selfless, and just a formidable human being.
Audrey Cefaly, the author of Maytag Virgin, considers herself to be a Southern female playwright. How is this manifested in her writing, and more specifically, in the play Maytag Virgin?
It’s definitely reflected in the play’s language! Audrey has poured so much of her heart and soul into Lizzy. You can just feel it. Being from the South myself, I would say the vernacular Lizzy and Jack use is enriched with a Southern flair. The rhythms, the shifts…it all flows so naturally and lifts off the page beautifully.
Lizzy Nash is described as being “endearingly neurotic,” but there is an explicit note in the script that she should not be played as a busybody. How do you balance her very real, organic energy and passion but also take care not to play her as a stereotypical nosey neighbor?
I play her truth. I am wholly invested in ensuring I am giving every moment, every beat all that I can. I leave it all out there. I have studied this play for months and I’ve tried to learn as much about Lizzy as I can. I am still making discoveries each night! Lizzy is all heart. Audrey, the playwright, has crafted a tour de force role with Lizzy and it is a privilege to portray her.
In my mind, there is nothing stereotypical about her. She is a complex woman who is protecting so much of herself while also being so vibrant and lively. I think by playing her truth, fighting for her objectives, and having an awareness of what she is protecting, there is no way that she will be perceived by the audience as grating.
I think that audiences fall in love with her. Initially, they often don’t know what to do with Lizzy, because she kind of feels like she has been shot out of a cannon. But as we move through Act I, the audience sees that there is a lot behind her energy and words, and they lean into that. I hope I am taking them on that journey with authenticity and fearlessness.