Move Toward the Darkness: Part 4 Meet the Beinekes

They’re normal people, not like you, not like me. Well, not exactly normal. One’s uptight and really boring, and the other one has rhyming poems that just sprout up through her whenever she feels stressed or blessed. But at least they’re not zombie butlers or dating the moon, right? In Part 4 of the Move Toward the Darkness interview series, we meet the Beineke Family— Mal and Alice— played by Darren McDonnell and Elizabeth Rayca respectively. Let’s see what they have to say about being the “Normies” of the Addams Family clan.

Let’s get a quick round of introductions and production histories so that the readers can put a name to a face and figure out what of your work they’ve seen recently!

Darren McDonnellAmanda N. Gunther | TheatreBloom
Darren McDonnell

Darren McDonnell: My name is Darren McDonnell and I play Mal Beineke. Right before I took this role I did Breast in Show where I played a character named Freddy at the Gaithersburg Arts Barn. I was recognized as a weekly Scene Stealer in that and I was also recognized as a “Best of” in one of the year-end awards things from one of the other online publications. Before that I did Pirates of Penzance here at Toby’s over the summer. Just before Pirates I did The Fantasticks at Rep Stage. I played Bellamy. And way back at the beginning of 2014 I did Sir Robin in Spamalot, all Mark Minnick shows at Toby’s in this last year. I’ve also received a Helen Hayes nomination for the Brave Sir Robin role, and I’m very excited about it.

Elizabeth RaycaAmanda N. Gunther | TheatreBloom
Elizabeth Rayca

Elizabeth Rayca: I’m Elizabeth Rayca, and I did Memphis, Mary Poppins, and now The Addams Family all here at Toby’s. I had a baby so I was too busy doing that to do stuff on stage. Right before I got pregnant— well I was pregnant during it— I did Nunsense at Toby’s of Baltimore. So I’ve had a little absence from the stage, but I came back for the last three in a row. Oh and I play Alice! His wife.

What was the general appeal to want to come and be a part of The Addams Family?

Darren: Other than I want a job? For me, I actually didn’t know if there was anything in the show for me. But then I came out and auditioned. One of the reasons— the main reason is because of Mark. (Director Mark Minnick.)

Lucas Beineke (L- AJ Whittenberger) leads his father Mal (C- Darren McDonnell) and mother Alice (R- Elizabeth Rayca) through Central Park to find his true love, Wednesday AddamsJeri Tidwell
Lucas Beineke (L- AJ Whittenberger) leads his father Mal (C- Darren McDonnell) and mother Alice (R- Elizabeth Rayca) through Central Park to find his true love, Wednesday Addams

Beth: Me too. Mark. I didn’t even know The Addams Family and I thought that I would get Morticia just because of how I look. I didn’t even learn the Alice stuff. I really focused on the Morticia stuff and I kept messing the Alice stuff up at my auditions. I still messed it up at the callback, but Mark knew there was something there that said “Alice.” He’s really good at seeing things in people and pulling it out of them.

Darren: I think so. For the most part.

What is your cultural familiarity with The Addams Family?

Darren: Cultural familiarity. Well, I saw the show on Broadway. I never saw the movies. I have seen the TV show back in the day. I watched it growing up, when it was on TV on Saturday mornings.

Uncle Fester (L- Shawn Kettering) is embraced by Alice Beineke (R- Elizabeth Rayca) during her full disclosure at dinner.Jeri Tidwell
Uncle Fester (L- Shawn Kettering) is embraced by Alice Beineke (R- Elizabeth Rayca) during her full disclosure at dinner.

Beth: I think I’ve only seen bits and pieces of it. I don’t even remember watching actual episodes or the movies. I know, that’s crazy right?

Darren: No, I never saw the movie. Wait, movies? How many did they make?

Beth: Two I think. But I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen either of them.

If you had an Addams character that is your favorite or that you think speaks to you or that you can identify with, who would it be?

Darren: Do you mean in this production? Or do you mean from the TV show, like Thing?

Beth: How do you relate to Thing?

Darren: Okay, maybe not Thing. I know who I like. I like Pugsley. I just think that character is funny. He’s very funny without being funny. He’s very serious and that makes him funny. The grandmother is the same way. I wasn’t like Pugsley as a kid. I didn’t blow up stuff, I was a good kid.

Beth: Maybe you wish you had been like Pugsley and that’s how you kind of relate to him.

Darren: Maybe.

Beth: Maybe that’s what makes you drawn to him, the opposite factor. I think that’s why I’m drawn to Morticia because she’s sexy and I’m not like that at all. I feel like I’m drawn to the opposite of what I am. I don’t think I’m sexy. I feel like when I played Ula in The Producers that was really pushing me out of my comfort zone.

Darren: You were very sexy in that role.

Beth: It was scary for me because I don’t think of myself as sexy.

Darren: That’s what being an actress is all about.

Beth: Exactly. It was my first “really pushing it” role.

Do you have a moment in the show that defines the show for you personally?

Beth: “Waiting.”

Alice Beineke (Center- Elizabeth Rayca) bursts out with a full disclosure of her own after drinking from the sacred Chalice.Jeri Tidwell
Alice Beineke (Center- Elizabeth Rayca) bursts out with a full disclosure of her own after drinking from the sacred Chalice.

Darren: Of course.

Beth: How can that not define the show for me? I get to just go out there and vent! Anything that’s going on in life— like the stresses of my children being sick and stuff like that— I just let it all go in that number!

What were some of the challenges that you had with that number?

Beth: Mostly it was learning all the notes because it’s just composed in a really awkward fashion. That’s why I had such a hard time learning it for auditions. I had a very short time to learn it and it’s so very strange.

Darren: And the lyrics.

Beth: Yeah. The lyrics. The listing things. That was pretty crazy.

Darren: I think for me it’s the “Crazier Than You” scene. That moment with Fester (played by Shawn Kettering) and then when Beth comes in. It’s even before the song starts, it’s right there for me.

How do you relate to Mal?

Darren: How do I relate to him personally? He’s very mid-western. I am not mid-western. I think maybe it’s the strictness of him? I’m not strict, but I grew up with that sort of strictness. I grew up in a large Catholic family and went to Catholic school so I had people who had his flavor of strict all around me when I was younger. I can relate to it without having to be it. I mean I’m not married, I don’t have kids, well I have dogs. Hudson and Decker, but they will not be running away with any of the Addams’ dogs. If the Addams’ even have dogs.

Darren McDonnell as Mal Beineke (Left) with Shawn Kettering as Uncle Fester (Right) Jeri Tidwell
Darren McDonnell as Mal Beineke (Left) with Shawn Kettering as Uncle Fester (Right)

I’m also different because he’s uptight. I’m not uptight. I mean, I guess I’m a little uptight. But he’s very uptight. And he’s very controlling. So when he has his “breakout” moment that’s when I get to let Darren into the character to play. I get to dance. Mark just said “go for it” with that dance so I did. It was like a little Darren dance party.

What’s it like being a part of “The Family?”

Beth: We’re not.

Darren: Yeah. We’re not.

Beth: It’s so funny because we got so secluded in rehearsal you would think we had a catching illness or something. There was everyone else and then us. “The Beinekes.”

Mal Beineke (L- Darren McDonnell) and wife Alice (R- Elizabeth Rayca) are a NORMAL happy couple. They even take selfies in their down time. Darren McDonnell
Mal Beineke (L- Darren McDonnell) and wife Alice (R- Elizabeth Rayca) are a NORMAL happy couple. They even take selfies in their down time.

Darren: But I like it.

Beth: I do too.

Darren: I like relating with Beth.

Beth: Oh my God, when I found out I was Darren’s wife? I was so excited! I had my happy moment, “Oh My God! Yes!”

Darren: I like that our son is AJ. (Lucas Beineke played by AJ Whittenberger.) I’m glad to do another show with him, he’s very promising and has a lot of talent and potential.

Beth: He’s so positive.

Darren: Yes he is, and he’s so sweet. I like working with him.

“Move Toward the Darkness” is the big finale number. What does that mean to you personally?

Darren: Hmm. Beth you go first. Wait, do you mean for me or for both of us? Nevermind. It means just don’t be afraid of what lies ahead. Just go for it.

Alice Beineke (L- Elizabeth Rayca) and Mal (R- Darren McDonnell) come to blows over their marriageJeri Tidwell
Alice Beineke (L- Elizabeth Rayca) and Mal (R- Darren McDonnell) come to blows over their marriage

Beth: I feel like there have been times in my life where I have felt like I was at my lowest and that’s when you realize what you’re truly made of. I feel like that defines the show. Like “Waiting” that’s the lowest of lows for her and that’s where she finds out who she truly is and what she’s truly made of and I feel like that’s exactly what it’s saying. In your life, even when you want to give up, don’t. Learn how strong you are.

Darren: That was good. That makes mine sound terrible. Can I do mine over?

Beth: It reminds me of that quote about the teabag, where you only know how strong you are when you’re put in hot water.

Darren: Can I just abstain from this question? Courteously?

The penultimate question is always why see this show at Toby’s, especially now that lots of other theatres have the ability to do it?

Darren: I think it’s a slick production; well directed, well choreographed. It moves very well. It flows nicely. It’s good performances and high energy and dedication from everybody in the cast. It’s true, I think everybody loves doing it. They love coming here and being a part of this show. I think that’s a testament to the love of the craft, to respecting our director, to really wanting to give it your all out of love and respect for the craft, each other, and the director. It’s a very slick production.

Mal Beineke (L- Darren McDonnell) wife Alice (C- Elizabeth Rayca) and son Lucas (R- AJ Whittenberger) all pause for a moment of family fun.Darren McDonnell
Mal Beineke (L- Darren McDonnell) wife Alice (C- Elizabeth Rayca) and son Lucas (R- AJ Whittenberger) all pause for a moment of family fun.

Beth: What I think about every Toby’s show…I love this theatre. I think the intimacy of it makes every show done here even more meaningful. You are in the show when you’re sitting in the audience. We’re not far away from you. It’s a very intimate experience. And everything Darren said.

Alright, the clincher question here! We need a “Full Disclosure” from each of you and each of your characters. So one from Mal Beineke and Darren McDonnell, and then one from Alice Beineke and Elizabeth Rayca.

Beth: Oh God…

Darren: Um, Mal’s full disclosure is that at the office he works at? He tends to flirt with a lot of the women that work there.

Beth: You son of a bitch! Oh my God! I have no idea what Alice’s is going to be now.

Darren: Now…my full disclosure?

Beth: See? Now he has no idea either.

Darren: There are just some things I don’t want anybody to know!

Beth: Think of something that’s not that bad!

Darren: They’re not bad, just embarrassing! Oh, Beth— you go. I need to think!

Alice Beineke (R- Elizabeth Rayca) drinks from the sacred Chalice in "Full Disclosure"Jeri Tidwell
Alice Beineke (R- Elizabeth Rayca) drinks from the sacred Chalice in “Full Disclosure”

Beth: But I don’t know! This is hard! Okay, okay. Alice’s full disclosure is that occasionally she sneaks cigarettes because she’s so stressed out from life with Mal. But I don’t know what mine is!

Darren: I know what mine is. I secretly still think that Robert Gant and I are meant to be together. Full Disclosure. 

Beth: Who is that? Famous movie star?

Darren: Not famous…he was on Queer as Folk, he played the Doctor. I thought I had to— no. Nope. That’s all. Full Disclosure. I’m getting married too, by the way. But I don’t know when.

Beth: I still have no idea. I wish I had something easy like yours. I feel like I tell everybody everything already!

Darren: Do you do anything weird around your house?

Beth: No.

Darren: I talk to myself all the time.

Beth: Well I do talk to myself sometimes…

Darren: I talk to myself like I’m a character in a TV show talking to the other people in the show. I’m crazy.

Beth: He’s crazier than me…

A disturbance in the normalcy of normality is felt among the Beineke Family (L to R Darren McDonnell, Elizabeth Rayca, AJ Whittenberger) when Pugsley Addams ( Far Left- Gavin Willard) arrives.Darren McDonnell
A disturbance in the normalcy of normality is felt among the Beineke Family (L to R Darren McDonnell, Elizabeth Rayca, AJ Whittenberger) when Pugsley Addams ( Far Left- Gavin Willard) arrives.

Darren: I talk to my dogs. Tim, my partner, said to me last night “Who are you talking to?” I was talking to the dogs! I sing to them when I take them on walks.

Beth: You are chock full of crazy and I can’t think of anything! I’m trying to think if I do weird things to my kids or stuff like that. I don’t know! I can’t think of anything. I just do what normal mom’s do.

Darren: Don’t you have any “things you do when you’re home alone?”

Beth: No. I don’t like dance around in my underwear or anything like that. I’m not that comfortable with myself.

Darren: Oh! Oh! You did tell me about that one thing that you did!

Beth: Uh-oh…I think he’s lying. What are you about to disclose on my behalf?

Darren: You told me that one time you and your husband were at the casino—

Beth: No! No! No! That wasn’t me! That was my friend! And that is so not appropriate!!

Darren: Come on, Beth, you’ve got to have something!

Beth: Okay, okay. I’ve got it. I’m still like a little kid when it comes to Disney characters and I get all giggly and excited.

Darren: That’s not a full disclosure, that’s half the cast and crew of this production.

Beth: I know, I know! It’s stupid. But I can’t think of a full disclosure that’s weird. Or even really secretive. I have a boring life. I never did drugs, I never stole anything, I’m just so boring!

Darren: We’re going to be here all night.

Beth: No, no, wait can I just email it to you? I mean I haven’t done anything—

Darren: No! I had to do one here…and I have so many things that I don’t want to get out there.

Beth: Okay!! When I was a kid I used to wear an eye-patch. And not a cool eye-patch like a pirate, but a big ugly one because I’m legally blind in one eye. Full Disclosure.

The Addams Family plays through April 19, 2015 at Toby’s the Dinner Theatre of Columbia— 5900 Symphony Woods Road in Columbia, MD. For tickets please call (301) 596-6161 or purchase them online.

To read the TheatreBloom review of The Addams Family, click here.

To read Part 1 of Move Toward the Darkness: Ancestor Addams— Julia Lancione click here.

To read Part 2 of Move Toward the Darkness: Lurch Addams— David Bosley-Reynolds click here.

To read Part 3 of Move Toward the Darkness: Grandma Addams— David James click here.


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