Lynn Redgrave “Grace”s the New York stage again

My normal theater plans have been turned upside down lately. Usually, I’m all about the musicals. I only see plays when I’ve heard something amazing about them or when there’s an actress I want to see. But these days, I keep adding plays to my list. I mentioned recently that I want to see Top Girls on Broadway this spring. I saw August: Osage County, which is a shoo-in for multiple Tony Award nominations, a couple of weeks ago. And now, I’m going to be making some off-Broadway plans as well. I just learned that Lynn Redgrave is starring in the MCC Theater Company‘s production of Grace at the Lucille Lortell Theater. (Whenever I walk past that theater, I flash to Friends when Joey was starring in a play at the Lucille Lortell Theater, and he fell in love with Kate, the woman who (for a while) taught him about rejection.)

Grace is the story of a woman who is “a mother, a wife and a brilliant professor.” She’s enmeshed in a public debate about the existence of God (she does not believe), when her civil rights attorney son declares he plans to become a priest. I suspect that a bit of conflict ensues.

While the story certainly sounds interesting, the story alone would not draw me to the play. It’s Lynn Redgrave I want to see. She’s one of those great stage actresses who I just want to see sometime. She’s from a renowned theater family and has an extensive West End and Broadway résumé. The idea of seeing her on an intimate off-Broadway stage is particularly appealing.

The funny thing is that, as much as I want to see her on stage now, I didn’t really know her as a stage actress for a long time. I was definitely aware of her originally as a television actress. I knew her from The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. (She could have been Charo for all I knew at the time.) I knew her as star of the show House Calls with Wayne Rogers. And, most of all, I knew her as the Weight Watchers spokesperson.

(And if you’re mid-to-late thirtysomething or older, you remember the Weight Watchers commercials, too.)

As I got older, I became more aware of her early film career. Her most notable role was Georgy in 1966’s Georgy Girl.

This role earned Redgrave her first Best Actress Academy Award nomination. (Her sister, Vanessa, was also nominated that year. But they both lost to Elizabeth Taylor. Alas.) The following year, she was in Smashing Time, a very 60s London movie. Check out this great clip.


And she played Xaviera Hollander in The Happy Hooker in 1975. (When I was an adolescent, I read that book for the lesbian bits.) But her most important role, to me, during my adolescence was Mariette Hartley‘s boss and second of two loves in the TV movie, My Two Loves.

I was 17, watching furtively and vehemently rooting for Mariette Hartley to choose Lynn Redgrave over Barry Newman. (She ultimately chose neither, but did not reject Redgrave because  she was a woman.) Nevertheless, both Hartley and Redgrave were kind of fixed in those roles in my mind for many years.

In recent years, however, the image of her kissing Mariette Hartley was replaced by the image of her being treated for breast cancer.

She and her daughter wrote a book about her cancer and recovery.

And now, she’s back on stage. And I get to see her. Grace began previews last night and will run through March 8. More information about the show can be found here.