Setting the tone for things to come (and breaking a few sound barriers in the process) was the braying, abusive Terry in Warren Leight's Tony-winning Side Man, hammering her musician hubby into the ground with obscenities and capping them with ferocious door slams. She originated that role Off-Broadway to award-winning effect but had to relinquish it when she snagged the role of Carmela Soprano, the tough-hide Mafia wife of HBO's "The Sopranos." On her hiatus from the mob hit, she made her Broadway debut as Terry the Holy Terror in the commercial transfer of Side Man.
During that nine-year marriage to Tony Soprano and in her current Showtime stint as E.R. "Nurse Jackie," Falco has faithfully spent her time off doing New York theatre.
In 2002 she and Stanley Tucci played a waitress and short-order cook snatching a night of happiness in Terrence McNally's Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune; in 2004 she and Brenda Blethyn formed a mother-daughter act by Marsha Norman, 'night, Mother, in which suicide looms to her like a happy ending.
These days her gloom is gilded by the silver-lining of playwright John Guare's eccentric wit in The House of Blue Leaves, which begins April 14 at the Walter Kerr Theatre. She's Bananas (as in "gone bananas"), the schizophrenic wife of a zookeeper, Artie Shaughnessy (Ben Stiller), who has slated her for the loony-bin so he can get on with his happily-ever-aftering with his impatient mistress, Bunny (Jennifer Jason Leigh).
Another happy domestic picture you're bringing to Broadway.
Edie Falco: See that? Exactly. Another flattering vanity role, yes. I think this is a wonderful role for you. Do you love it?
EF: Yeah. I do love it so much. The play itself is so good. I just love being a part of the entity of House of Blue Leaves, the world that John created. Y'know, I would have done Artie if they'd ask me. I would have been a part of it in any way.
I tend to love these characters. They're confused and troubled and dear, so deeply dear, but something went awry, and the struggle that they have to find their way back has always been of great interest to me.
The domestic scene is really your battlefield, isn't it?
EF: Yeah, right. Funny, it is.
How did that happen? Was it something you deliberately went after?
EF: You know what? I stay out of how it happens, frankly. I just kinda go to where I'm told to go, and then I get phone call, saying 'Oh, they're doing House of Blue Leaves, and they want you to do it.' It's just amazing how things roll into your life when they're appropriate, so that's how this happened.
And you're also a magnet for great roles.
EF: Oh, I'm lucky. I'm truly lucky.
|photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN|
Your director, David Cromer, has surrounded you and Ben and Jennifer with terrific support — Thomas Sadoski, Alison Pill, Mary Beth Hurt, Christopher Abbott, Halley Feiffer, Jimmy Davis, Tally Sessions, Susan Bennett. What has it been like working with these people?
EF: It's been phenomenally great. That's all I can say. There's a humility in the room. We're all in service to this great play, this rich story. There are no egos, there are no attitudes. It's just exactly the work environment that is most conducive to positive outcome, I've discovered.
Have you done comedy before?
EF: Comedy in a play? [A subtle distinction, but Falco would make it, being the first actress to win an Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy as well as Outstanding Actress in a Drama.]
EF: Well, these plays all have funny stuff in them, but no slapstick.
I still laugh at your door slams in Side Man.
EF: (Laughs.) There you go. That was my comedy.
This particular kind of humor — what's the word? Guarian — is tilted, off-center, definitely not the standard issue.
EF: Sure. For sure.
Is that sort of comedy difficult for you to play?
EF: No. That's the stuff I relate to better than sitcom humor, which I never quite understood — or I certainly don't have a grasp on it, as far as performance is concerned, so this kind of dark-humor stuff has always [the most comfortable for me].
I'm really looking forward to this show—a great cast, plus you.
EF: Ah, good. I'm very excited myself.