Schitt’s Creek was the kind of fictional small town you might hope one day to escape to, especially if the Rose family remained in residence. In contrast, Big Cherry, the setting of the just-opened, much-raved-about Broadway play The Minutes (Studio 54, booking to July 24), is a nightmare of a place. And it is where the musician and actor Noah Reid has decamped to make his Broadway debut.
Like Reid’s character Patrick in Schitt’s Creek, Mr. Peel is genial, handsome, a good guy seemingly trying to do the right thing, and trying to untangle a disturbing mystery. (Warning: some Minutes spoilers follow.)
Mr. Peel’s investigation into the rot within Big Cherry’s town council leads to dark revelations around racism and the death of democracy. This is a small town’s dysfunction that chillingly reverberates in our present world and is as funny—about the mundanity of small towns and small-town officialdom—as it is shocking about the vicious white supremacy that props up its identity. Expect the rave reviews to be followed by Tony Award nominations in a few weeks.
Reid and this reporter spoke as the play was in previews, and the cast, including star and playwright Tracy Letts, and director Anna D. Shapiro were fine-tuning it. On opening night this past Sunday, one of the cutest sights was Dan Levy, who played David Rose, Patrick’s husband on Schitt’s Creek, come and offer Reid his support.
“Broadway Debut: Those words have capital letters,” Reid told The Daily Beast. “I don’t know what I expected it to be. It’s both a surreal experience and familiar enough. I really try to think of it like going to work.” Every time he gets the traditional welcoming round of applause from the audience before he has uttered a word, “I always assume that’s for Tracy and I’ll take the bounceback.”
When Reid first read the role, “It spoke to me so much about the times we live in and the choices we are all making one way or another—who we choose to protect, who we choose to defend, and what story we like to tell about ourselves, and what story history will tell about us. The play deals with the minutiae of a small town council, but not far below the surface are big questions about about the foundation of our society and how we make decisions.”
The themes of the play mean that performing it on stage “makes the ground beneath my feet not feel particularly solid. We’ve all been trying on some level to pretend that it is, but I think what’s at play really in The Minutes is a cage match for the soul of America. It’s a bit harrowing. I think the play does a beautiful job of taking the audience off its guard a bit.”
He’s right. Letts, Shapiro and the actors have all created a beautiful, impactful piece of work, with the audience experiencing this strange world through Mr. Peel, new to the council, and as ignorant of the weird events that happened the week he wasn’t there, as he is. As Mr. Peel clamors for the truth, so do we. But then the play asks: How should that truth be used or abused?
The audience at the two performances this reporter attended were shouting their support of Mr. Peel against his obstructive colleagues. For Reid, the audience is “as integral a piece of this play as the characters in it. They are a character in it. How they are receiving the information, what they are laughing at, sculpts the performance in a way. They have strong feelings.”
Reid is most moved about what the play says about racism, and the state of the democratic process, especially as states legislate against LGBTQ people, trans youth, women, and Black people, through mechanisms such as access to health care, what can be taught or said in schools, abortion access, and voting rights.
For Reid, The Minutes asks if an individual can make any difference. “It is a strange time to be alive, and yet I think probably everyone throughout history has said that about the time they have been alive. I think what we have now is access to an insane amount of information—and with that information people have access to platforms to make their own feelings clear, and with that maybe make some change. I think this play highlights that and in the same breath challenges it.’
“‘The Minutes’ does an interesting number on the audience, who may think they are on the right side of things, before the play finally asks them where they really locate themselves.”
— Noah Reid
Reid notes how “virtue signaling” is now sneered at, yet he thinks there is something “very true and real about it. We want to be seen as good, and on the right side of an issue, no matter what that issue is. The Minutes does an interesting number on the audience, who may think they are on the right side of things, before the play finally asks them where they really locate themselves.”
The fact that it is mainly white men sitting on stage discussing these questions and issues is no accident, said Reid, but at once a true reflection of these spaces where straight white men preside over things they have no lived idea about. The one Black man in the room, and three women, are mainly sidelined—and, we discover, have made their own peace with the space they occupy.
Then there is Mr. Peel, who seems at least to be the hero to finally neutralize the poison in the Big Cherry council room. And we see Reid get angry, which we hardly did as lovely, sweet Patrick.
But as Reid says, Mr. Peel is dealing with a set of life-changing challenges, like the recent death of his mother and raising an infant, which affects “how he sees himself in the world, how he approaches being a parent and setting a good example. His is a balancing act of ideas and emotions. It’s clear to me that Mr. Peel has tried probably throughout his life not to be too emotional, and he’s by nature a people pleaser. The circumstances of this play force him outside of the parameters of his comfort.”
The wild, opinion-splitting denouement—no spoilers here (but more on that later)—means that Reid finds he has to “wind down from the play, pacing the room for a while, before I get to turn it off and go to sleep. Your mind is turning over. Also, it’s new for me to perform on that stage and in this forum, and the responsibility of performing this story properly feels significant. I’m about to be a father myself later this year, so all of these big questions about what kind of world are we bringing the new generation into and ‘How do you want to contribute?’ and what can you do and reasonably expect feel very meaningful.”
“Schitt’s Creek gave people the warm hug they needed”
Reid’s wife, Clare Stone, is expecting their first child in August, and he laughs when asked how he is preparing for it.
“Oh I don’t know. My wife and I have lots of conversations about what we think is important. For me, I have benefited from a tremendous foundation of love and support in my life, and that is what I hope to contribute to my child’s life. It’s like a play. You can do as much preparation as you want, but it doesn’t really start until you are in the room, or on stage. Life has its own direction.”
Reid has been flashing forward to the child’s teenage years, “and navigating who knows what? In the last 15 years there has been lots of changes to the spaces young people occupy, particularly online. I didn’t have to deal with that nearly as much growing up. My wife is a psychiatric nurse and researcher, so I feel she has some insight, and I’ll try and be the fun, creative parent for a while and see how that goes.”
Reid himself grew up in an artistic household in Toronto. “Both my parents and sister are visual artists. That skipped me over completely. I can’t draw a straight line. I’ve found other ways to access my creativity. The arts have always been a huge part of my life and experience. The arts are where we get to reflect on our experience of life and the world surrounding us and ask questions and consider answers that aren’t didactic but all over the place. There’s a huge spectrum of belief and understanding, and it’s joyful.
“The thing I keep reminding myself before going on stage is, ‘Just enjoy this.’ You can be super-stressed out about all the things that might go wrong, but really it’s a thrill to be involved in any kind of storytelling. It’s what drew to me theater when I was a kid, and it stays the same today.”
Aged 8, Reid performed in a production of Beauty and the Beast, “a magical world to inhabit as a kid. It probably ruined me for other possible lines of work. I fell completely in love with it, and the people.”
On some “ego level,” it fed the child’s notion of being perceived as special, Reid says, but he has grown to learn that each role he performs is about finding what is special about the characters he plays. “It’s difficult to make a living in this line of work,” Reid says. “If you’re lucky enough to be involved in projects that actively question the world around us, and where people fit or don’t fit in, and how we can contribute to a better world or critique the world, that feels like a sweet spot for me.”
Schitt’s Creek, which Reid joined in its fourth season, was a delicious mixture of traditional and conventional, which likely explains its massive, boundary-breaking success.
Reid wasn’t prepared for it, or the fame that followed. He knew it had some “legendary” comic performers, and it was lovely to film it in the “hometown feel” of Toronto. He felt lucky to be part of it. “But I don’t know that any of us expected it to rise to the level of notoriety it did. I don’t want to give the pandemic too much credit, but I do think during that time when people were shut in these past two years, and particularly when the sixth season came out, it gave people the warm hug that they needed at that moment. The show’s take on personal growth and love and understanding, and all with this wry sense of humor, hit the right note for a lot of people.”
The reaction of people to Reid on the streets of New York has shown him the ongoing love fans have for Patrick and David. Reid himself first realized that impact when he and Levy saw an advertising billboard on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles featuring Patrick and David in a wedding-like setting. “That moment of representation was massive. Seeing that in person I thought, ‘I haven’t seen anything like this,’ and understanding the push Dan had to make the image get seen in that format was very moving.”
“I thought it would be mistake to ‘play gay.’ I thought, ‘What I can play is a man who falls in love with another man, and build that connection into the character.’”
— Noah Reid
As a straight actor, Reid says, “When I was approaching the character, I thought it would be mistake to ‘play gay.’ I thought, ‘What I can play is a man who falls in love with another man, and build that connection into the character.’ I can fall in love with another person, for sure. I think all of us can. One of the things I loved about Patrick was the personal understanding and comfort within his own skin to follow his desire and connection.
“Dan [Levy, who plays David] made that very easy. We have a natural chemistry, and we’re good friends to this day. It was incredible to have such a front-row seat to the sculpting of that relationship and the way it impacted people. It was handled with a lot of care and a lot of love. It wasn’t an accident that that relationship meant so much to so many. It was crafted that way.
“We’ve seen a lot of stories about how difficult it is to come out, and that coming out story was a beautiful repurposing of that experience and that narrative.”
— Noah Reid
“Some of the storylines—like Patrick coming out to his parents and even that first kiss moment—were very carefully constructed with a lot of love and tenderness. It was intended to be, and ended up being, a ray of light for people. And that representation is incredibly meaningful. We’ve seen a lot of stories about how difficult it is to come out, and that coming-out story was a beautiful repurposing of that experience and that narrative. The parents were more hurt that Patrick didn’t think that they were going to be totally fine. I thought that was a really nice narrative touch, and certainly made it a very moving to perform.”
Playing Patrick reinforced the notion to Reid “that it doesn’t matter who you love. You’ve got to follow your heart. Hopefully people are lucky enough to live in a supportive atmosphere as Patrick and David were. I think that kind of storytelling does open up the possibility of families to watch that show together and have conversations about something they might not have had conversations about before, and approach it with love and understanding. That’s what I continue to take from it.”
That is a worthy, admirable desire, but there are many in power determined to deny LGBTQ people dignity and equality in law. There are hundreds of anti-LGBTQ laws being being tabled in Republican legislatures that go way behind the banner headlines of policies like Florida (and now other states’) “Don’t Say Gay” laws. Many, as The Daily Beast has reported, are aimed at trans youth’s access to affirming health care and playing sports.
“I think it is anti-human, and I think it’s very sad that in this country where people are obsessed with freedom there seems to be a cognitive disconnect around who gets to experience freedom.”
— Noah Reid
“I think it is anti-human, and I think it’s very sad that in this country where people are obsessed with freedom there seems to be a cognitive disconnect around who gets to experience freedom,” Reid told The Daily Beast. “But I have hope and faith that the people will be the deciding factor in these matters, and that we will overcome these draconian, ridiculous pursuits of hate and intolerance.”
Reid is presently appearing in Outer Range (on Amazon Prime Video), whose Los Angeles premiere party he missed because of his Broadway commitment, “but I got to be on stage with Tracy Letts, so it’s not all bad,” he says, smiling. In June, his third studio album of original songs will be released, and Reid hopes to plan some live concerts around it.
“I’m going to have my hands full come the fall so we’ll see,” he said, referring to the imminent arrival of his child. “Personally, I love to switch gears creatively, spending time on stage, on set, and in the studio, and continuing to chip away at notions of what it is to be alive and why it’s important to be here.”
Before our farewells, this reporter raised the thorny question of the shocking last scene of The Minutes. Unrevealed here, it will be much-discussed by audiences that go to see the play. Some feel it works, some feel it does not. Whatever, the conclusion of play feels resolutely pessimistic about the future of democracy and pluralism.
“I don’t know if I agree it that it is 100 percent pessimistic,” Reid told The Daily Beast. “I do, but I think from that place comes the invitation for the audience to consider whether they agree with that ending and if they identify with the choice Mr. Peel makes, and how we might as a collective rewrite that ending. I think Tracy [Letts] is holding up a mirror to say, ‘This is what I see us doing. Are we going to continue to do this or are we going to do something else?’”
https://www.thedailybeast.com/noah-reid-on-the-power-of-schitts-creek-his-broadway-debut-in-the-minutes-and-anti-lgbtq-laws?source=articles&via=rss Noah Reid on the Power of ‘Schitt’s Creek,’ His Broadway Debut in ‘The Minutes,’ and Anti-LGBTQ Laws