That was the framework for the 2002 revival of Terrence McNally's Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune and it worked handsomely for the producers, whose investment was returned in a matter of weeks. Now the star of that show, "The Sopranos" actress Edie Falco, is back in a new production of Marsha Norman's 'night, Mother. The director is Michael Mayer this time around, and Falco's co-star is Brenda Blethyn. But otherwise, the formula remains intact. Will the result be the same? Falco talked to Playbill On-Line about her decision to return to Broadway, her friendship with Mayer and the good and bad aspects of being known to the world as Carmela Soprano.
Playbill On-Line: You're now perceived as one of the few bankable dramatic actresses who can carry a Broadway play.
Edie Falco: That's news to me. I need to assimilate that first. It was never a goal of mine, intellectually, to bring great theatre back to Broadway. Every moment, I'm making decisions on what to do next based on what my instincts tell me. I'd love to think that maybe it's serving something in a larger scheme, but that was never my intention. This came to me through Michael Mayer, who sent me the script, and I read it and said, "Absolutely have to do it."
PBOL: Had you been looking for something steadily since Frankie and Johnny?
EF: No. Not really. We finished "The Sopranos" in December, almost a year ago, and I read a lot of scripts. I read movies and TV scripts. It was very hard, because my standards are very high now. I was very disappointed by the stuff I was reading. So, when this came along I was just taken. I was just thrilled. It was not unlike when I first read "Sopranos." I read it and part of me was already there.
PBOL: The story is pretty heavy stuff.
EF: 'night Mother has intense plot stuff in it, but without being grotesque and actor language-ish, it really is a celebration of being human. It's funny. There was a period of time when I wasn't sure we'd be able to do it, because Brenda and I could not stop laughing. She is so funny. We could not stop laughing. We had to stop rehearsal. I have to watch myself and remind myself that I'm actually in the play with her. She's one of these people who are so brilliant and don't know it. Also, this play is kind of like a Maserati. In the beginning, you have to go slow, because it's so powerful. We have to build our muscles up to get ready for it. My thought was, it almost doesn't matter who the actresses are in it. The play is very intense.
PBOL: Your career has given lie to the notion that actresses past their ingenue years can't find good roles.
EF: Of course, I'm getting tons of scripts for Italian wives and mothers, and they're not interesting to me. So I move on. I have a lot of friends who say, "Oh, I keep getting cast as the so and so." Well, you keep taking the part! You have to say no, let that time go by when you're not working and don't panic. Something will eventually come along. PBOL: Do you think you would have done this play if a different director had brought it to you? You've worked with Michael Mayer before.
EF: I don't know. That's a good question. It's unlikely. I don't just trust him, I love him. The experience of Side Man was so multi-layered and so many years—like five years we worked on its various incarnations. When we both started out, we were both like real theatre rats. Didn't work very much, very hungry. Since we've known each other, we've been working a lot and we both have lives and careers and we're happy. We've really been through very big experiences together.
PBOL: Do you do anything to wind down after a show a show like 'night, Mother?
EF: No. After Frankie and Johnny, I'd go home and walk my dog. I was very pleased to go back to the safety and comfort of my house. Not so much because of the story of the play, but because of the business end of things. It was a little upsetting that I'd do two and a half hours on stage and I'd come out the stage door and people would be going "Carmela!" Did you even see the play?! It made me kind of sad. I'm an actress and hopefully my career will go on long after "The Sopranos" ends.
PBOL: Has Marsha Norman been in rehearsals?
EF: Yes. She's been doing little tweaks, making things less specific or more time appropriate. She's been very good about stepping back and letting us do it. She's been very generous.
PBOL: Will you and Brenda have understudies?
EF: I believe we'll have understudies. [Pause] They won't go on.