Mothers and Other Strangers

Mothers and Other Strangers "Do Not Open 'Til Mother's Day" is not actually plastered across the Promenade's new play‹Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna's Bermuda Avenue Triangle‹but it could be. The actors/authors just wouldn't premiere it on any other date.

"The play is about mothers and daughters, even though it looks like it's about these three people," says Bologna, the husband half of the act. "It's really about mothers and daughters and the dynamic of letting go, finding life on your own, being independent."

"Do Not Open 'Til Mother's Day" is not actually plastered across the Promenade's new play‹Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna's Bermuda Avenue Triangle‹but it could be. The actors/authors just wouldn't premiere it on any other date.

"The play is about mothers and daughters, even though it looks like it's about these three people," says Bologna, the husband half of the act. "It's really about mothers and daughters and the dynamic of letting go, finding life on your own, being independent."

The other misconception about the title‹the Florida flavoring‹is corrected by Taylor. "It takes place in Las Vegas, the fastest growing community for senior citizens in the U.S. We didn't know that. We thought it was Florida, but now Vegas is first." And therein hangs a joke that goes with the turf.

"In Las Vegas," elaborates Bologna, "they're always trying to make it into something else. It's desert‹and they're trying to make it into New York, NY. They have these condominium complexes on Tahiti Drive with a coupla palm trees and a thatched roof‹and they call it Pago Pago Place and Bermuda Avenue."

It is here, in a very exclusive retirement community, that two widows are dumped by their daughters (Ronnie Farer and Priscilla C. Shanks). "They go unwillingly," says Taylor, "and fall in love with the same sexy stranger."

"I think you should just say 'the same stranger,' and let the audience decide if he's sexy or not," injects Bologna, mustering a modicum of mock modesty.

Put another way: he plays the part. "I had to talk Joe into it, too," insists his wife. "Originally, he was going to direct it, and we went through a lot of fabulous Italian actors. Then I said to Joe, 'Why don't you play it? You can do sexy.' So here we are. Besides, if we didn't write and act together, we'd never see each other. That's how we can go to Vermont together and have a life."

This industrial-strength togetherness has gone on for more than 30 years and produced one son and five comedies (Lovers and Other Strangers, Made for Each Other, It Had To Be You, Love Is All There Is and Bermuda Avenue Triangle), and, on occasion, they can maintain successful careers separately: He starred in My Favorite Year, The Woman in Red, Blame It on Rio and Chapter Two; she is enjoying her highest profile to date, via TV, as the mummy of The Nanny.

But she believes their Bermuda Avenue Triangle gives her her best role so far. "I get to go from having a nervous breakdown to being totally joyous. I love that kind of a range. You don't get those kinds of transformations to play in parts." Nanette Fabray, in her first New York appearance since 1973, completes the triangle‹a corner previously held by Bea Arthur in the play's SRO L.A. run. Her character, claims Bologna, is a combination of two of his aunts. "One was Italian, and one was Irish. They both were very tough, feisty women‹lovable, but that's the way they expressed themselves, the way they held off their sensitivity."

The other woman is Taylor-made from her own mother. "I'm really the daughter in the play, writing about my mother from my point of view. Ever since I was a little girl, I knew that my mother was an unforgettable character and that I would write about her one day. She felt very unloved as a child but was very loving, and I always marveled at that. You know, you read about people who had an unhappy childhood, and I always thought, 'How did my mother manage to be so loving when she had an unhappy childhood?' I always lived in that question, in that wonder. So this play is really about my mother. Joe and I just asked ourselves, 'How would we make my mother and his aunts happy late in life?'"

Enter that sexy stranger. "Yes, it's the sexy stranger," concedes Bologna, "but it's also the daughters letting go that allows the play to happen. It's like parents releasing kids, cutting the cord. When you get older, the opposite happens. You get a mirror image where the parents become often the children."

Hence, Mother's Day‹and this year's should be a happy one indeed!


-- By Harry Haun