Carey Mulligan, Bill Nighy on the American Response to 'Skylight'

Skylight Premiere H 2015
Erin Baiano

Skylight Premiere H 2015

"In European politics, there is the existence of this class who are living completely separate lives from the rest of the people," says playwright David Hare. "We didn't know it was as bad over here."

If you really want to irritate David Hare, tell him that his play Skylight is more topical now than it was when it was originally produced on Broadway in 1996.

"It was pretty topical when I wrote it," the playwright says on opening night of the current revival starring Carey Mulligan, Bill Nighy and Matthew Beard. "It's just not much has changed!"

The play, which opened Thursday at the Golden Theatre, centers on Kyra, a young woman who works as a teacher in a low-income school, whose evening is interrupted by Tom, a much older past lover. The pair spar about their relationship, family and income inequity over the two-hour duration.

Mulligan had been circling the drama for about two years, ever since she told London producer Robert Fox that she wanted to perform in a play. He immediately suggested Skylight, with Stephen Daldry as director.

"I'd been looking for a play that had brilliant writing and had an exciting role for a woman, and it was just perfect," Mulligan told The Hollywood Reporter at The Bowery Hotel after her Broadway bow.

Read more 'Skylight': Broadway Review

London audiences embraced the production in 2014. That led to a New York engagement on which producer Scott Rudin teamed with Fox. However, many of the key moments in the show seem to resonate more with American audiences.

At the opening performance, resounding applause followed Kyra's speech about the importance of social workers and public servants to society's infrastructure.

"It's a great speech," Mulligan says. "I get behind that speech quite easily. It's not a speech that I have to sell particularly because I believe it. There are parts of the play I find less easy to deliver. When something's your own personal belief, that just adds weight to it."

Mulligan also has a monologue about the self-pity of the rich, a moment she said she almost rushed through in London but emphasizes more on Broadway because it seems to speak to American audiences. This surprised Hare.

"In European politics, there is the existence of this class who are living completely separate lives from the rest of the people," Hare explains. "We didn't know it was as bad over here."

Read more 'Skylight': London Review

One of the other elements of the play that usually receives a response from viewers is the cooking of Bolognese sauce and pasta live onstage. Mulligan took lessons at an Italian restaurant in London to learn how, though she admits in real life she's not much of a cook.

For Nighy, Skylight is the only play that he's done twice; he performed the same role 18 years ago at London's Vaudeville Theatre. However, he has no muscle memory from the performance and doesn't feel like it's a reprise. He's just grateful to be working again with Hare, with whom he's collaborated several times, though the last time onstage was nine years ago in The Vertical Hour on Broadway.

"It's my favorite thing," Nighy says of working with Hare. "The play is so beautifully written and so beautifully conceived. Nobody comes on and tells you how to think. It's more sophisticated than that."

For Mulligan, this time on Broadway feels much different than when she appeared as Nina in The Seagull in 2008, before her big-screen breakout in An Education.

"I don't really remember 2008!" she says with a laugh. "I was so nervous all the time. It was a very strange whirlwind experience. I had a great time, but I was in a big cast, and the pressure was off in a way. This time, there are only three of us, so there's a certain amount of pressure. It's different but also great. I'm going out onstage with two actors who I really love and really trust."