Interview with Director Matt Pfeiffer

Tue, 10/30/2018

Interview with Completeness director Matt Pfeiffer

1.    We missed you last season! What have you been working on since you directed Buzzer?
I did some university work in the fall. Both at Villanova (Godspell) and DeSales (Peter and the Starcatcher). Then last winter I worked with the Delaware Theatre Company (Heisenberg) and the Fulton Theatre in Lancaster (Blackbird). I also directed at Act II Playhouse for the first time (Camelot). It was strange to not be working directly in Philadelphia, but it was also a lot of fun to be working with new collaborators.
2.    What do you find most interesting with a piece like Completeness?
I think it’s hard to accept that we can’t perfect relationships. We struggle and strive to be in the perfect situation, but ultimately we have to reconcile that love is complicated and partnerships take time and compromise. You have to find a way to get out of your own head and live in the moment. Itamar smartly wrestles with this journey and provides funny and insightful perspective on the cost. 
3.    You directed Completeness in Los Angeles at VS. Theatre Company in 2014. Why did you want to direct it again?
It’s a challenging play. Itamar’s text is at times complicated and requires a keen intellect. Going through the process once has given me some perspective on exactly how I think the play works. I was eager to tackle it again with that knowledge. I also felt that in working on it with James and Mary I had an opportunity to explore the play from a new perspective.
4.    How do you think this production will be different?
I don’t know. The rehearsal process always yields new discoveries and a new environment. A lot of the physical production will be the same, but the cast and the space will be very different. Itamar has also re-written part of the ending. It’s not a huge departure from what was previously in the play, but it is a significant change in perspective; one I’m excited to see play out.
5.    What makes Completeness an Exile show? What makes it a Matt show?
I made my career as a director trying to put actors first. I’d like to believe that in any production I direct that the audience will feel the moment-to-moment living and breathing of the actors to be paramount. Completeness requires a level of intellect and emotional vulnerability that can only be realized through a dynamic collaboration between actor and director. I believe that I have the right cast to tackle what the play requires. I think that my perspective as an actor has always informed my work as a director. Completeness is a perfect vehicle for me to showcase the dexterity and talent of this cast. 
6.    How do you think Completeness fits in with the aesthetic of our production history?
Exile has always presented plays that challenge actors. Sometimes the challenge is physical as in plays like Bug or Killer Joe; other times emotional, as in productions like Gruesome Playground Injuries or The Whale; and sometimes in intellectual complexity, as in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf or The Invisible Hand. We haven’t done a lot of romantic comedies. There’s an assumption that the form is lighter. That is not always the case. I think that Itamar’s writing fits firmly in our production history along writers like Annie Baker and Ayad Akhtar, as intellectually challenging, while also calling on real emotional availability. His writing is also incredibly funny. Exile has frequently explored comedy through a darker lens. I think we don’t always need to compete with the very dark times in which we’re living. So, offering a comedy that’s a little lighter than our previous fare is welcome. 
7.    What is the one thing you want audiences to know before coming to see your production of Completeness?
Be prepared to laugh. But also know that you’re dealing with incredibly smart characters. So, you’ll have to buckle up and take the ride with them. You may hear a lot of new words and learn new concepts about the world, but it’s not just for the sake of intellectual rigor, it’s to get at something truly funny and human. 
8.    What do you hope audiences will take away from your production of Completeness?
That relationships are hard but worth it. Love requires sacrifice and the ability to get out of your head and live in the world. I also hope that the play unpacks the universality of that experience. 
9.    What are you most excited about for this production?
Getting to work with this cast. I have collaborated with James and Mary previously, but the opportunity to work with them on this kind of material is what I live for creatively. I’m also excited to share Itamar’s work with Philadelphia audiences. His work has previously been seen at the Wilma and 1812 Productions, but it’s been a while. And the fact that he wants to revisit this play, and keeps tinkering with it says a lot about who he is as a playwright.