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Laurie Metcalf of reuniting with Stewart and Flanagan in “Voice Lessons”

October 21, 2011

Laurie Metcalf reunites tonight with French Stewart and Maile Flanagan for another run at Justin Tanner’s Voice Lessons, which last ran at the Zephyr Theatre and now moves into the Whitefire.

“I think this is the fifth time we’ve done it,” says Metcalf. The show received four Ovation nominations earlier this year at Sacred Fools. “We ‘ve also done it at the Zephyr and in New York and at a Fresno college and now the Whitefire.”

The play centers around an overly-educated voice teacher (Stewart; Third Rock from the Sun), his lover (Flanagan) and a vocally-challenged community theater actress (Metcalf; Roseanne, Big Bang Theory, Easy Money). Tanner’s work, she says, endures because, “He’s got a real great way with dialogue and the characters are extremely amusing. They’re completely uninhibited. It stays fresh. They say and do whatever comes in their head and the show’s fun to watch because people behave that way. Each time we revisit it, the three of us in the cast, find something new. It’s a rare luxury to revisit something.”

Flanagan has appeared since August in Tanner’s Day Drinkers at the Odyssey Theatre in Los Angeles. The show has been extended through October 30. She won an Emmy for Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks in 2006, and was nominated a second time for the same series in 2007.

Metcalf says Voice Lessons has evolved over time. “Friends tell me it’s taken a darker turn from early on, maybe a little more inappropriate. Nothing in theater is carved in stone.”

Metcalf, who began her career at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre, married company co-founder Jeff Perry and divorced in 1992.Their daughter is local actress Zoe Perry (Lieutenant of Inishmore, The Autumn Garden, End Days). In 1984 Metcalf won the Obie Award for Best Actress for her New York performance in Balm of Gilead, a Steppenwolf production.

As Metcalf prepares to revisit Voice Lessons, she one day would like to revisit All My Sons, which she performed a year apart at the Geffen Playhouse and the National in London. “A year is a nice span of time,” she says. “You don’t put any performance to bed, really. Even after a show closes I spend months daydreaming about it and finding things in my imagination that I could’ve tried had the run gone longer.”

It takes her a while to let go of a show. “It becomes part of your routine. For months I think about a show I’ve just closed but to tell you the truth if I think about any play I’ve done in the past you’re right back there again because you spent so much time on it. It’s in your body. I could go right back to learning about shows I did years ago.”

So, for Justin Tanner and Voice Lessons fans, the trio may well revisit this play again. “Really, we try to do it whenever we find ourselves together in a big city I’m sure it won’t be the last time.”

Bart Delorenzo once again directs. Whitefire Theatre 13500 Venture Blvd. Sherman Oaks (818) 990-2324. Oct 21-Nov 6.

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