Mary-Louise Parker just spent the past eight seasons on the Showtime series, "Weeds," playing a widowed mother of two sons, keeping reality at bay with marijuana — by hustling it to Suburbia to make ends meet. In the Sharr White play premiering Oct. 24 at Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, The Snow Geese, she's again the widowed mother of two sons and must get there without chemical stimulation.
On television, she was chronically widowed, running through three husbands in eight years. In the play, she is freshly widowed, with one son bound for the frontlines and another distraught that the late head of the household left them all in financial shambles. The world is too much with Elizabeth Gaesling, and, being World War I vintage with no cannabis in sight, she must somehow muster a happy face for an annual shooting party signaling the start of hunting season in upstate New York.
"What I love about her is what I love about all the characters I play — the flaws!" Parker declared with an actor's pride. "I love how deluded she is. There's something sweet about that. Of course, I don't know her that well yet. I could change my mind totally once I get in the rehearsal room. But I think one thing will stay intractable — that she's not in touch with reality. She has no desire to be in touch with reality at all, and there's something I kinda admire, oddly, about people who can do that. I'm always trying to stay so organized and have a comprehensive awareness of everything that's happening with everyone around me. And she just has no desire for that. She's much happier to have her head in the clouds. It's more pleasant."
Once again, playwright White is tour guide for a fragile woman's fractured psyche. He last went down this road with a brainy scientist batting back Alzheimer's in The Other Place, bringing Laurie Metcalf a raft of awards and a Tony nomination.
For Parker, it's her fifth play for Manhattan Theatre Club. "That was the first place I ever played on stage in New York other than Off-Off-Off-Off Broadway, and it's the place I've returned to most often. It feels like home. Lynne Meadow and Barry Grove are kind enough to always think of me, and, if they didn't, I'd probably bug them."
David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize-winning Proof won Tonys for her, MTC and director Daniel Sullivan, so she was quick to suggest Sullivan for a rematch. "Everybody wants Dan for everything so it wasn't a very original thought on my part, but I did express it — immediately — and I'm sure they'd already thought of him, but I'm lucky enough that he said ‘yes.' I've been wanting to work with him again since Proof.
"The Snow Geese feels kinda like the lost Chekhov play, but not in the way that it is derivative. Sharr has his own style — but it truly, truly is reminiscent of Chekhov."