Now here's how you can tell you're talking to a real actress: Anita Gillette says she wanted
to put on the grey wig so she'd look older in the part.
"I don't want to sound egotistical, but I feel I have a more youthful look than is required for Angelina," says Gillette about one of three roles she assays opposite Jamie Farr in the new Off-Broadway play Flamingo Court
, which opens this week at New World Stages. Angelina is a 62-year-old looking for love in the wrong places, but immediately after her scene, Gillette has to segue into playing Clara, a 79-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimers, so director Steven Yuhasz convinced her to save the grey for Clara.
"We're learning in the previews that audiences don't even know it is I who comes out in the second piece," Gillette says. "I was in shock when Luigi [Creatore, the playwright] told me that."
In yet another role in Creatore's three-part play, Gillette works in a different register—and a different hairstyle—altogether.
"I play an old hooker named Chi Chi," Gillette says. "She has bifocal glasses, gold lame pants, cleavage. When she does a bump and grind, it's a little painful.The audience goes hysterical—they love it."
The three playlets are linked by not only by their location—the Florida apartment complex of the title—but by the theme of aging, and particularly love, romance and sex among people euphemistically referred to as "of a certain age."
Remarkably, Gillette says, "We don't have one joke about Viagra in the show, not even in the original draft I saw." Speaking more seriously, Gillette—who made a Broadway career in Neil Simon romantic comedies, among other things, and was Tony-nominated for Chapter Two
—is concerned about the state of the marriage union in today's Internet age.
"The relationships haven't changed so much, but how you meet people has changed, and how people develop a relationship has changed, too—and not for the better, from what I can see from my 19-year-old granddaughter," says Gillette, whose husband died 10 years ago. She seems puzzled that the ritual of the one-on-one date seems to have faded among the next generation. "My granddaughter was staying with me, and she said she was going out, and I said, 'Can I meet him?' And she said, 'No, we'll just meet at the movie theatre.' And they don't go out alone, they go in a group. So I made them all come over for a Coca-Cola—I wanted to see who she was going out with."
More broadly, she feels, there are so few anymore who stay the course with one partner for the long haul.
"I know of some long-term relationships that still exist, but it seems like divorce is so easy to do, and so handy for everybody," Gillette says. People don't seem to take it as seriously as they used to." Part of the problem is the "work ethic in this country, and this city in particular, where it's all about getting ahead and making money. They tell people my age to slow down and smell the roses, but I think younger people need to do that, too."
Slowing down is something Gillette consciously chose to do in the last decade or so.
"I've done 14 Broadway shows and innumerable regional plays," Gillette says. "And when you get in a long run, you're gone a lot of the time, and every day is all about how you preserve your energy. After my husband died, I needed to devote more time to my family."
At the moment, though, slowing down is not an option for her triple-play efforts in Flamingo Court.
"The thing that wears us out the most is running in the dark," Gillette says of the costume changes required. The challenge, though, is the reason she took the job. "I did this once before, in John Guare's play Rich and Famous
, where I played five different ladies in one evening. And it's not only the clothes, of course, it's getting yourself together in such a short time to be a whole other person."
That's why they call it acting.
Click here for more information about Flamingo Court.