As for sidestepping the perils of playing a role like Soot, he points to Hagerty’s anchoring strength. “You meet her and she seems to be just a bundle of fragility. An elegant, sweet, vulnerable face. Those eyes that don’t seem to have a shred of cynicism in them, still. She’s managed, even as a mature woman, to seem to look out on the world with untarnished purity. But underneath all that, there’s a strong girl. Otherwise it would be unbearable.” Soot never does fall apart, despite the forces battering her—in fact, she even gets to have a moment. It’s brief, and fleeting, but it’s there: The eyes narrow, the smile tightens, the spine regenerates. That winsome tinkle of a voice is banished by a growl. After Bette gives birth to a dead baby, one of many (it’s a dark play, folks), Soot tells her son, Boo, to be good to Bette. Better than Karl’s been to her, which shouldn’t be hard. “I wish I had dead children,” she says. “I wish I had 200 dead children,” then she roars, “I’d stuff them down Karl’s throat.” Then she brightens. The sunny wheeze returns. “Of course, I’m only kidding,” she says, and laughs.