Mary-Louise Parker is restless. “I’ve just gone through hair and makeup and I haven’t done anything,” she says, fidgeting on the set of a Showtime pilot. “Should I have a Diet Coke? I was here for twelve hours yesterday, and I acted for 23 minutes.”
Alongside Parker in her trailer is a dog-eared copy of Reckless, the semi-farcical play by Craig Lucas she’ll bring to Broadway this autumn, in her first stage turn since winning a Tony for Proof. Parker has played Lucas’s characters before, both in film (Longtime Companion) and on Broadway (Prelude to a Kiss), and she has total faith in his play, in which she’ll portray an addled woman who escapes a hit ordered by her husband. She’s done Reckless before, in the 1995 movie, with Mia Farrow as the lead and Parker in the supporting role (which Rosie Perez takes this fall). “It’s complicated to find your way into somebody who talks that much,” she says. “Because a lot of the time, there’s something very major they’re trying not to say.”
There’s a good deal that Parker won’t talk about: her hometown (Fort Jackson, South Carolina), her family (her dad is a judge), and especially Billy Crudup, who left her last year while she was pregnant. But she’s perfectly willing to opine on everything else. She’s a little more tactful than in years past, when she told interviewers the writing in Boys on the Side could have been sharper, and that she’d “rather go back to selling shoes” than be in Demi Moore vehicles like Disclosure or Indecent Proposal. “I was super-idealistic and arrogant,” she admits. “As you get older, you’re less of a know-it-all.”
Still, Parker has a goofy nostalgia for her early years of New York struggle, when she indeed measured feet at Ecco. “We would dance with the mannequins,” she says. “It was such an eighties montage: the hair, the leather, the Church playing. New York is really a great place to live if you’re poor.”
Hollywood hasn’t always been as great. Parker lost roles she created onstage to Meg Ryan (in Prelude to a Kiss) and Gwyneth Paltrow (in the upcoming Proof)—but more recently her profile has risen, with a role on The West Wing and an acclaimed performance in HBO’s Angels in America. For so long, Parker says, she feared that roles would “go to somebody higher on the list.” But her own star power brought this role to the stage.“With theater, I feel satisfied,” she explains. “Like I punched a clock, like I did my job.”
Reckless. Biltmore Theatre; previews September 23, opens October 14.