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Opening Night PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Reckless Manhattan Theatre Club's elegantly restored home-away-from-City Center, The Biltmore Theatre on West 47th, started off MTC's second Broadway season Oct. 14 with a revival of Craig Lucas' 1988 Reckless—and extra special luster from Mary-Louise Parker.
From Top: Mary-Louise Parker, Rosie Perez, Jeremy Shamos (left) and Craig Lucas, Mandy Moore, Brenda Blethyn (left) and Edie Falco
From Top: Mary-Louise Parker, Rosie Perez, Jeremy Shamos (left) and Craig Lucas, Mandy Moore, Brenda Blethyn (left) and Edie Falco Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Not that proof of her twinkle 'n' shine was needed after her Tony-winning work in MTC's Proof, but Parker was happy to oblige anyway, having initiated the project in the first place. She was anxious to give this dizzy heroine a whirl. "She's just a hopeless optimist," the actress shrugged helplessly at the post-premiere party across the street from the theatre at The Supper Club. "That's pretty much the opposite of me. She keeps trying no matter what happens to her, trying to be positive, and I find that quite beautiful."

As a runaway housefrau with so much to run away from—in particular, a professionally committed hit-man hired by her husband on Christmas Eve—Parker leads a merry chase, springing from Springfield to Springfield for 14 years. (There are said to be a Springfield in every state in the union, although director Mark Brokaw was hard-pressed to pinpoint Springfield, Hawaii. "We only get as far as Springfield, California," he offered lamely.)

"I wanted to work again with Craig—and with Mark," is Parker's primary motivation for such Reckless behavior. Brokaw directed her to an Obie for How I Learned To Drive, while Lucas is something of a lucky scribe for her and always has been (Prelude to a Kiss, Longtime Companion, even Mia Farrow's 1995 movie version of Reckless in which Parker played the paraplegic deaf mute Rosie Perez now inhabits on Broadway).

It's the first time Perez has originated a role on Broadway—a longtime goal of hers—and she couldn't have been prouder. "It felt fantastic," she trilled. "I was very, very nervous when I first wheeled out there, then after the second scene I was fine, and I had a ball."

During and after the play's run, Perez is toiling on an untitled documentary for the IFC: "It's about the political-cultural relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico." Multi-tasking is one of the job descriptions for the Reckless cast. Perez essays three roles; Olga Merediz, Thomas Sadoski and Jeremy Shamos do four or more; but the title-holder in the fast-change, multi-character department is Tony-winning veteran Debra Monk, who manages to get off a half-dozen doctors with vastly different temperaments and hair styles ("Wigs," she says, "by the great Paul Huntley")—plus a chicken ("I'm very proud of that chicken"). It keeps a gal busy: "All the costumes have been built to be ripped off—like Chippendale's. My dressers work really hard. They put new wigs, new makeup, everything in seconds. There's one change that's 20 seconds."

Monk has more madness on the immediate horizon. In March she heads to Boston to do 1987's Laughing Wild by (and with) Christopher Durang at the Huntington Theatre.

Michael O'Keefe, who plays a grieving widower who champagnes himself into an early grave in the play, is another who has New England business beyond the play. "I'm getting a degree at Bennington College in the creative writing program," he said. "I'm a year into the program, and I have my third residency in January." Is this switch in professions a mid-life crisis? "I'm going to be 50 in April so it could be a mid-life crisis. My first mid-life crisis was when I bought a 1970 SS Chevelle, which was my every-day car for eight years, so I suppose that going to college now could qualify as my second midlife crisis."

The theatre professionals were out in full force Thursday night, this being the first Broadway opening of the fall season, battening down the hatches for more to come.

At the center of the papparazzi explosion was Mandy Moore, at what some say was her first Broadway opening. She obliged the press with poses on her way into the Biltmore, but the light-bulb fireworks greeting her as she left the theatre sent her scurrying back inside the lobby where she took time to recompose herself. Fame is like that sometimes.

At the opposite end of that celebrity-commotion spectrum was the low keyed presence of composer John Kander, his first public outing since the passing of his longtime partner, lyricist Fred Ebb. His attendance was interpreted as a show of support for pal Monk, who knocked across two showstoppers in their failed musical of 1996, Steel Pier.

Fresh from his Musicals in Mutfi triumph in Henry, Sweet Henry last week when he gave an A-1 imitation of Peter Sellers in "The World of Henry Orient," Mark Nelson revealed projects filling both his professional hats: He'll act in a new musical by Daniel Goldfarb called Party Come Home ("I play a 500-year-old Brazilian refugee from the Inquisition," he said with amazing matter-of-factness); then he'll direct the premiere of a new Tina Howe play, Women in Flames, about a fiftysomething playwright and her relationship with a young actor ("I'm researching the sexuality part now," he added mischievously).

Blanche DuBois and her Mitch were back together again, bless 'em—Patricia Clarkson and Noah Emmerich, who played those parts to acclaim in the recent Kennedy Center revival of A Streetcar Named Desire, proving there's life after lunacy and their short run.

Clarkson (a.k.a. "Indie Queen") is, by choice, at liberty these days. "I'm not doing a damn thing right now," she declared happily. "I have a lot of work coming up. George Clooney offered me a part in a new movie he'll direct in March. It's called Good Night and Good Luck, after Edward R. Murrow's famous sign-off. It's about the McCarthy hearings." She declined to say whether she's a victim or a persecutor, just that "it's a beautiful part."

Brenda Blethyn, Emmy-winning Edie Falco and their director, Michael Meyer, wrapped the 'night, Mother rehearsals so they could drop by for the opening (a relatively lighthearted evening in the theatre). Two and a half weeks into it, Falco said the Marsha Norman revival is coming along well. So too, she smiled sweetly, are the political polls.

Blethyn will be making her Broadway debut when 'night, Mother opens Nov. 14 at the Royale, but it won't be her first New York stage appearance. MTC's artistic head, Lynne Meadows, directed her in a 1991 production of Alan Ayckbourn's antic, Absent Friends, opposite Gillian Anderson, who was also making her New York stage debut.

Veterans of other MTC shows were conspicuously present among the first nighters: The Tale of the Allergist's Wife's Michele Lee (working on a one-woman show, Catch the Light, which she hopes to bring in six months hence), Between Us's Kate Jennings Grant (off to North Carolina to film "Forgiven" by, and with, Paul Fitzgerald), The Wild Party composer Andrew Lippa (one out-of-town gig away from Broadway with his musical version of A Little Princess), Sight Unseen's Ben Shenkman (set to play John Cusack's best friend in a film comedy by "Family Ties"/"Spin City" scribe Gary David Goldberg called "Must Love Dogs") and Ain't Misbehavin' director Richard Maltby Jr. (enthusiastic after the latest reading of his next musical with David Shire, Taking Flight). Reckless looks like the lift-off of The Craig Lucas Season. In January, Long Wharf will premiere his Singing Forest, an epic play sprawled across three acts, running from 1938 Vienna to New York in 2000. "It's about an 82-year-old psychoanalyst," he said.

And in April, his much-antipicated The Light in the Piazza, will illuminate Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont. "Adam Guettel wrote a gorgeous score, and Victoria Clark—what a performance! She carries this extraordinary story on her shoulders beautifully."

Last, and maybe best, sight of the night: Meadow being helped into a white stretch limo hired by a MTC board member. She wanted me to tell the world: "This wasn't my idea."

Left to Right: Debra Monk, Thomas Sadoski, Olga Merediz
Left to Right: Debra Monk, Thomas Sadoski, Olga Merediz Photo by Aubrey Reuben

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