In an article by Harry Haun for The New York Observer, he reports that Actress Judith Light is taking New York by storm. The last three years has seen one success after another. First came the Tony Award nomination for Lombardi and then the Tony Award win for Other Desert Cities. The multi-Emmy Award winning actress will appear in The Assembled Parties which opens at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater on April 17.
Here are some excerpts from the article:
It was not the sort of applause that generally greets a star. It was that more rarefied kind reserved for somebody truly beloved. Last December, when Judith Light took to the stage of the New Amsterdam at The 24th Annual Gypsy of the Year competition to do what has become her regular moment-of-silence spot for those lost to AIDS, there was a massive outpouring of affection. A longtime Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS standard-bearer, she couldn’t be better cast for the bit, her voice ringing with dignity and compassion. But that reception set off in me a wave of jealousy, along with the toxic thought, “Damn! They love her as much as I do!”
Bernie Telsey, the casting director and co-founder of Manhattan Class Company, understands my petty feeling well—he doesn’t enjoy sharing Ms. Light either. On the one hand, as he counseled me last week, you’re happy that people see what you see. On the other hand, “she’s not your secret anymore.”
Mr. Telsey, who had almost everything to do with getting Ms. Light back on the Broadway track, having hired her in 1999 to replace the awesome, award-showered Kathleen Chalfant in Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Wit, has cast Ms. Light as the honoree—“for her bold, daring, risk-taking spirit”—at MCC’s annual fund-raising gala, “Miscast 2013,” which will be held March 4 at the Hammerstein Ballroom.
She’s had three shows on the Main Stem in three seasons—pretty good hittin’ in anybody’s book, and worth celebrating—and she was a shoo-in, Mr. Telsey said, when he and his MCC partners, Robert LuPone, Will Cantler and Blake West, threw the bones on the floor. “When we talked of someone who’s touched our lives as an actress, as an ambassador for our arts and education program, it was unanimous. All four of us have that kind of relationship with her.”
Since Wit, he pointed out, she hasn’t stopped working in New York. “She’s so connected with the words that she’s saying, in whatever play, that she touches you as an audience member. When she speaks, it crosses over those footlights and lands in your lap. She’s sharing that character’s story, and you just feel connected with her.”
TWO WEEKS DEEP INTO REHEARSAL, Ms. Light spoke of The Assembled Parties guardedly and in generalities, perhaps hoping to preserve its surprises. Act I takes place in 1980, Act II in 2000—Mr. Greenberg is fond of generation-jumping (Three Days of Rain)—and the show’s focus is how a well-to-do Jewish family fares over the decades.
“My character, in this particular play, is a woman who has made what she considers to be a terrible mistake and had to get married,” she explained. “This happens around 1949, 1950. And she is cut off by her mother, who denies her the closeness that they once had. The thing that’s happening is that Jessica Hecht’s character—my sister-in-law—does something that transforms my whole life and my whole relationship to her. The Assembled Parties is about making a relationship, and making a family, out of people who are not necessarily family. It’s about connections, making connections.” Her performance promises to be impressive, if her turn in Eric Simonson’s Lombardi two years ago is any gauge. In 244 performances, she played the ultimate in football widows, Marie (Mrs. Vince) Lombardi, who treated her loneliness with stiff drinks.
“I knew from the start—from the first reading—that she absolutely got the character,” Mr. Simonson recalled. “She understood the humor, which was key to understanding the role.””
But it wasn’t just that. “Judith was a consummate professional in rehearsal,” he said, “extremely positive in nature, never said a bad word about anybody—and the cast came to call her ‘Mom.’”
After the curtain falls or the series fails, there is still Light. When America Ferrera, her Ugly Betty co-star, did a stage turn for the Women’s Project recently in Bethany, Ms. Light led the opening-night cheering session. When Lily Rabe, her daughter in MCC’s Colder Than Here, won the Actors’ Equity Callaway Award for playing Portia in The Merchant of Venice, she was the kveller in the crowd. When Danny Pinatauro, her son for 196 Who’s the Boss? episodes, made his stage debut at the Duplex as a street hustler in The Velocity of Gary, “Mom” was down front, beaming.
Lombardi got her a Tony nomination. The Tony itself came last year for following Linda Lavin’s Off-Broadway act when Jon Robin Baitz’s Pulitzer-contending Other Desert Cities went to Broadway: a visiting relative politically out of sync in a Republican California home, fresh out of rehab and flinging stinging zingers right and right.
Of course, none of it might have happened without Wit. “They believed in me,” Ms. Light said. “I’d done nothing on stage for 22 years, and they gave me a shot. I still remember a review I got that said, ‘This person wouldn’t be your first or your 500th choice for Wit—but, oh my goodness!’