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Roman Goddess

Beauty is the subject of Terrence McNally’s new Off Broadway plays, so who better to star than Isabella Rossellini?

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It's In Her Eyes: Rossellini beholds the "Stendhal Syndrome."  

‘Cosmetic beauty is the way you dress, the way you wear your makeup, but here we’re talking about the sublime,” says Isabella Rossellini, who knows a little something about pulchritude. Rossellini is making her New York theater debut at Primary Stages in The Stendhal Syndrome, an evening of two 45-minute beauty-themed one-acts, the first new plays since 1998 from Terrence McNally (Frankie and Johnny). “The plays are about that emotion you have when you encounter art, when your intellect stops,” she says. “It’s hard to give it a word; that’s why they invented the term Stendhal Syndrome.” In Full Frontal Nudity, Rossellini plays a tour guide in front of Michelangelo’s David. In Prelude & Liebestod, she’s the wife of a famous orchestra conductor. Both characters, she says, “are pretty strong women.” The same may be said of Rossellini, who appears undaunted by the New York stage’s occupational hazards: long hours and low pay. “I’m getting $304 a week,” she says with a laugh.


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