For Danny DeVito and Lucy DeVito, Theatre Is a Family Business | Playbill

Special Features For Danny DeVito and Lucy DeVito, Theatre Is a Family Business

The father-daughter duo are starring in Theresa Rebeck’s I Need That for Roundabout Theatre Company.

Danny DeVito and Lucy DeVito Heather Gershonowitz

Lucy DeVito may have grown up around television and film sets (she’s the daughter of Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman, after all), but she might really be a theatre kid at heart. She did theatre in high school and college, then moved immediately to New York. Her first professional gig was at Ensemble Studio Theatre (coincidentally in a play titled Lucy) and it quickly became her theatrical home base. “I got my sea legs there,” Lucy says.

As she speaks, Danny looks on, beaming. He is a proud papa. “I was really excited when Lucy found her way there. I was there in the early days. In that same building—five flights up,” he says of the Hell’s Kitchen mainstay.

Lucy says her sea legs are feeling a little wobbly right now as she prepares to make her Broadway debut. However, “I’ve got the most amazing scene partner anyone could ever ask for,” she says. Of course, she’s talking about Danny.

The father-daughter duo is starring in the world premiere of Theresa Rebeck’s I Need That for Roundabout Theatre Company. The play begins previews October 13 and officially opens November 2 at the American Airlines Theatre on Broadway. Ray Anthony Thomas completes the cast. The play centers on Sam, a hoarder who has shut himself off from the world, surrounding himself with piles and piles of the reminders of his past. His daughter Amelia tries to rescue him from his mess before authorities can evict him after complaints from his neighbors.

“I think Theresa was writing this during the time when everyone was in isolation,” says Lucy. “I can relate…I think a lot of people can because of what everyone went through— being surrounded by your own four walls and thinking about your stuff, and the memories and the future. You can get into kind of an existential loop there, I think.”

Adds Danny: “The life experiences, the memories. ‘They all live around us,’ that’s one of the lines. I love this play so much.” It’s clear to see it moves him, even in just thinking about it. And he’s practically giddy for rehearsals. “I’m marking off the days. It’s everything I can do to not pick up the phone, and Lucy can attest to this, and call and say something about the play while we’re learning it.”

Danny and Lucy are not strangers to working together. They’ve even played father-daughter before—most recently in last year’s FX animated series Little Demon, in which he voices Satan and she is his daughter, the anti-Christ. But aside from a few readings, this is the first time they will be on stage together. 

And since it's at Roundabout, Lucy will be making her Broadway debut in the same theatre where Danny made his in the 2017 revival of The Price. Danny gets a little choked up in talking about the genesis of I Need That and the involvement of the late Todd Haimes, longtime artistic director of Roundabout. "He was just so supportive and wonderful. He was with us through the inception of this," Danny says with tears in his eyes. "We're doing it for him."

All of the pieces for I Need That fell into place during the pandemic. Danny and Haimes had kept in touch after The Price, and Danny always wanted to come back to Roundabout. And during the height of pandemic Zoom theatre, Lucy and Danny did a reading for Playing on Air with director Moritz von Stuelpnagel (who Lucy also knew from Ensemble Studio Theatre). Lucy asked von Stuelpnagel to keep his eyes open for something else she and her dad could work on together. It wasn't long before von Stuelpnagel brought in Rebeck who had an idea for them. The group all got together on Zoom to chat, and Lucy and Danny told stories. "We went away, and she came back and had written a play," says Lucy. 

Though instrumental in the inspiration for I Need That, Danny and Lucy, of course, are not their characters (although Danny does turn his Zoom camera to reveal his junk bowl, full of cables he will not use and more lighters than needed for occasionally lighting a candle). But Lucy does admit that they are mining from their own relationship to create Sam and Amelia. “We have a great relationship. We’re very connected. We’re very tight. But we can also challenge each other as well,” she says.

And Danny understands the need to hold on to things. “The play touches on all kinds of things that I’m going through in my life,” he says. “We all have stuff that we latch on to.” This time it’s Lucy looking on with care as Danny speaks. It’s plain the thing they really need is each other.

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