Shelley Hack is certifiably demented--and loving it.
"Basically, I get to chew the rug for 2 hours," says the actress, who's just stepped into the role of Luisa Baccara ("who starts out crazy and gets crazier") in the long-running theater piece "Tamara" at Il Vittoriale. Mired in the sexual-political intrigue that surrounded real-life 18th-Century Italian poet Gabriele d'Annunzio, concert pianist Luisa stayed with d'Annunzio for years, "even reduced to playing the piano while he seduced other women."
Luisa's mental unraveling is but one of Hack's concerns. "There's everything you have in a regular play--lines, blocking, other actors," she says of the audience-interactive motif. "But it's also very different. For instance, if you and I have a scene in a room that's supposed to run 3 minutes, and it turns into 4, then you're late--and the person downstairs you're supposed to meet is also a minute late. So it can all fall down like bowling pins."
So can the actors. Thus far, running up and down repeated flights of stairs hasn't taken its toll on the Connecticut-born, Smith College-educated actress. However, she notes, the rest of the cast is well-supplied with ace bandages, heat wraps and liniment. Ailments include "Tamara throat," "Tamara knee" and "Tamara hip."
So why do it? "Why not?" Hack says rhetorically. "I love theater. I thought it would be fun, and it is." Certainly more fun than answering those inevitable questions about her 1979-80 TV stint as "smart angel" Tiffany on "Charlie's Angels."
"It's been so long--and I've had a whole career since then," she says, referring to starring roles in the series "Cutter to Houston" and "Jack and Mike." "But the 'smart' thing is OK, I guess. And anything that makes you that well-known in this business is a plus."