Jennifer Coolidge: The Return of the Native

Jennifer Coolidge in "Saving Kitty"
(photo: Nora Theatre Company)

Ask someone what their favorite Jennifer Coolidge role is and you're likely to have quite a few answers. While some might opt for the hilarious characters she played in Director Christopher Guest's films “A Mighty Wind” or “Best In Show”, others might choose one of her numerous appearances on several television series. This critic would vote for her beautiful creation of the manicurist Paulette (with more than a passing interest in the UPS deliveryman) in the “Legally Blonde” movies. Even with such varied comic roles already on her resumé, it might surprise some fans to hear that she's about to take on a part that's a further challenge for this versatile actress, in a live theater production at a theater near you. The play is “Saving Kitty” by Marisa Smith, which Coolidge first did at a staged reading in Williamstown. The play received its world premiere at Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre in 2012, and, from WHAT, it's now transitioning with Coolidge, in a true local coup, to none other than the Central Square Theater in Cambridge for the Nora Theatre Company.

Jennifer Coolidge (center) in PBT's "Cinderella"
(photo: Priscilla Beach Theatre)
It may also surprise her fans that Coolidge is a Massachusetts native, having grown up in Norwell and attended Emerson College. She also took part in productions in Plymouth at Priscilla Beach Theatre or “PBT”. Ironically, she appeared there in “Fiddler on the Roof”. Next month the renovated PBT barn reopens with an adult theatre production of that very same musical, after the building had fallen into such bad condition that it was threatened with demolition. It was saved by its new owners, Bob and Sandy Malone, and transformed into a state-of-the-art venue. (In yet another irony, Bob Malone also appeared in “Fiddler on the Roof” at PBT as a child actor). The upcoming “Fiddler” will have a special Tevye, Michael Bernardi, son of the legendary actor Herschel Bernardi who played Tevye on Broadway. So there's a lot of local history around PBT, including the multi-talented Coolidge.

Priscilla Beach Theatre today
(photo: PBT)
Coolidge, in a recent phone interview, shared how exciting it was to be taking on the role of an urbane and wealthy Manhattan matron, Kate Hartley. Living in a swank Fifth Avenue apartment, ostensibly ultra-liberal, she and her husband (a U.N. official) have become a rather bored couple. The arrival of a single person (the new beau of Kitty, their television-journalist daughter) changes their lives. There are similarities to the basic situation in “Guess Who's Coming to Dinner” as the couple speculates about this new boyfriend. Rather than racial bigotry, however, this play has other targets in mind, not to be revealed here. The play will be performed from July 9th to August 2nd. (Tickets are available at www.centralsquaretheater.org)

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