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Any fan of Falcon Crest can tell you Maggie was too good for Richard. A grieving widow when he swept her off her feet and into a marriage of bickering and alcoholism, she finally drowned to death in at the bottom of a swimming pool. Well, Maggie and Richard are at it again, sort of. Falcon Crest actors Susan Sullivan and David Selby have reunited as a squabbling couple of a different sort in the Odyssey Theatre’s adaptation of Edward Albee’s Pulitzer Prize winner, A Delicate Balance, now running through June 15.
“Reconnecting with somebody who was so important in your life at a sort of seminal time in your development not only as a human being but as an artist, it just adds layer and depth and informs the world of Mr. Albee, which is a dark, interesting, existential place to be, particularly at this point in our lives, since we’re both the same age,” Sullivan tells The Hollywood Reporter about re-teaming with her old colleague with whom she’s remained friends throughout the years.
Sullivan and Selby quarreled through primetime for much of Falcon Crest’s nine-year run in the ’80s before Sullivan moved on to shows like Dharma & Greg and currently Castle, where she plays Nathan Fillion’s veteran theatre actor mom. Selby continues to work in TV and movies, and will next be seen in Matthew Weiner’s directorial debut, You Are Here.
“These roles are different so it’s an entirely different relationship,” Selby says about A Delicate Balance. “The one thing that doesn’t change is your respect and how much you care, all the trials and tribulations you went through all those years while doing the show.”
In the new production they play Agnes and Tobias, a neurotic couple living with Agnes’ alcoholic sister, Claire (O-Lan Jones). An unexpected visit from family friends Harry and Edna, (Mark Costello and Lily Knight) who are convinced they are being pursued by an unnamed terror and need a place to hide, adds an unexpected wrinkle to the dysfunctional household. Things become even more complicated when Agnes and Tobias’ middle-aged daughter, Julia, (Deborah Puette) moves back in after the collapse of her fourth marriage.
The role of Agnes was originated by Jessica Tandy in the 1966 run, and Katharine Hepburn played her in the 1973 film adaptation. When Sullivan got the offer she turned it down immediately – put off by the idea of having more lines in one play than in six seasons of Castle. But then she remembered how much she enjoyed doing The Glass Menagerie at the Pasadena Playhouse during her stint on Dharma & Greg and agreed to sign on.
“It’s so rich and so nuanced and complicated that it allows you to look at the world through your eyes and the eyes of the character so that the aperture opens so wide and all this energy and life that comes in is f–king exhausting,” laughs Sullivan about her character, a neurotic narcissist based on Albee’s own mother. “I felt like this was the last chance to take on something this challenging.”
In fact, it hasn’t been all smiles during rehearsals. “The role of Agnes can be very tough,” hedges Selby when asked about his costar. “Sometimes a little bit of what’s on stage has tended to carry over out of rehearsal a little bit.”
Sullivan admits to being controlling and maybe a little neurotic, which just might be the bane of many in her profession, a lesson she learned from none other than Cary Grant when she was in her twenties.
“I was at a very chi-chi party in New York City and I allowed as to how I was an actress,” she recalls. “He looked at me askance and said in that Cary Grant voice that carries so much weight, ‘Oh darling, really, don’t do it.’ I went, ‘Oh no, why? He said, ‘They’re all neurotic.’ I went, ‘All of them, even Katharine Hepburn?’ He said, ‘Especially Katharine Hepburn.’ It’s very hard to get out there and reveal your soul, your intellect, your thoughts. I’m doing it and I’m amazed.”
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