The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on September 29, 2002 · Page 109
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · Page 109

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Los Angeles, California
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Sunday, September 29, 2002
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Page 109
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CA_Imposition_F_8__LA_1_09-29-02_su_1_CMYK 2002:09:25:20:40:55 81 LOS ANGELES TIMES • CALENDAR • SUNDAY,SEPTEMBER29,2002 8 LOS ANGELES TIMES • CALENDAR • SUNDAY,SEPTEMBER29,2002 THEATER By IRENE LACHER E ither the place was a destination for the hungry hordes or a waiting room for heaven. The room Mary McDonnell is sit- ting in is blizzard-white, and it’s lined with countertops covered by various coffee makers. But alas, the coffeepots are empty and the bare countertops aren’t any more promising. There’s no trace of the elaborate feasts laid out at production breaks by the filmmakers with whom McDonnell is used to working. More likely, the room really is paradise adjacent, located as it is on the second floor of a simple Meth- odist church in West Hollywood that sometimes doubles as a meeting place for AA. Buddy, can you spare a rehearsal space? Next door to the church kitchen, McDonnell’s col- leagues in the nascent theater company LA Stage & Film are rehearsing Max Mayer’s new play “James and the Handless Maiden” under the direction of McDonnell’s husband, actor RandleMell. Clearly, even though most people in the company work in film and/or television, the scene is nothing like Hollywood, certainly not the salaries, because there are none. If the choice is love or money, well, you do the math. McDonnell is explaining how the return to her roots on the stage isn’t about the cash, not that she would turn it down if it were offered. “I’m no purist,” she says with a wry smile. The actress is talking about how she hungered to play a part far more de- manding than the ones she’s usually offered, that of “a dangerous woman” who has just emerged from a psychiatric institution, committed after stabbing her husband. All this before the curtain even goes up. At a graceful 50, McDonnell is just getting past that funny age for women—the invisible 40s—when she was too old for “the girl” roles and too young to play older women. And of course, juicy parts for older women are far more common on the stage than in Hollywood’s youth culture. “Part of why I’m getting drawn back in is, I’m starting to get old enough for some of the roles,” she says, her perfectly manicured hands sweeping the air as she talks. “On the set of ‘ER’ last year, Noah Wyle and I were talking, and I said, ‘We really should do a reading of “The Glass Menagerie” because I’ve been waiting to play Amanda, the mother, my whole life, but I wasn’t old enough.’ And he just started laughing, and he said, ‘You know, you are old enough now.’ And I said, ‘Noooooooooo,’” she re- Photos by ANNE CUSACK / Los Angeles Times David Starzyk, standing, with Kevin Kilner, Catherine Corpeny and Mary McDonnell, right, rehearse Max Mayer’s “James and the Handless Maiden.” TV? M OVIES ? T HAT ’ S O LD H AT Most of the actors in the young LA Stage & Film company have already made it to Hollywood. What they really want to do is perform onstage.

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