Good things happen when you least expect them. Take Lucie Arnaz's role in Tom Ziegler's Grace & Glorie . . .
Arnaz looks on it as an act of God. "A very generous one, I might add," she added.
She'd had a full summer's work ahead of hera Kennedy Center date, a new play for fall; "and then everything fell apart, and I had nothing on my plate."
Out of nowhere, a Fed Ex landed on the Arnaz desk in Westchesterthe script of Grace & Glorie, a new play by Tom Ziegler about a spunky 90-year-old woman living alone in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the brisk, tailored hospital volunteer in her forties who shows up to try to make things easier for the old girl.
"I opened the packagetwo-character playRoundabout's Laura Pels Theatreopposite Estelle Parsons. My heart went pump pump. Can it be any good? Read it, laughed and cried. This was the Thursday before Tony Sunday. A note said if I was interested, I had to be in New York ten o'clock next morning to meet the director, the author, Estelle Parsons, whom I'd never said hello to in my life, all the powers that beand read. "Not just your two lines on page 9. They gave me 22 pages: Glorie's big breakdown scene and part of the opener. I hadn't had a chance to look through the script more than twice, and maybemaybethat was a good thing. Because people look for quality, not perfection."
Arnaz, mother of three, stepmother of two morehusband Laurence Luckinbill's two sonswent off to Atlantic City for the weekend with her two youngest as long planned. "I sort of put the whole thing out of mind. When we returned on Sunday, there were messages all over the house: 'We loved you, we want you, can you start Monday? Call.' "
She tried to call but couldn't reach a soul. They were all at the Tonys. "Didn't matter; I knew we weren't going to worry about money. This was Off-Broadway; how much can it be? Maybe they'll throw in my parking, which they did."
She stepped into a role that had been vacated in mid-rehearsal two weeks earlier by another actress. "I have no idea why she left, still don't know, don't want to know." The original director is also gone, but have no fear, playgoers, Gloria Muzio has done a crackling job with this one-on-one between Parsons and Arnaz; actually the two-on-one between Grace, Glorie and death.
"I move around a lot," said the star of TV, films, theatre, night clubs, talk shows. "A moving target. Sometimes I think of myself as the Forrest Gump of actors."
Has the Forrest Gump of actors ever been socked, as in the play, by personal tragedy? "I watched my father die in my arms of cancer," said the daughter of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. "I spent the last three weeks of his life with him. So I've been there."
-- By Jerry Tallmer