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Eight years after her last visit to Broadway, Tony Award winner Jessica Lange returns to the stage in “Mother Play,” a true story about a dysfunctional family with themes of love, loss, forgiveness and a “wicked” sense of humor.

“I wanted to do a new play, something brand new. When I read it months ago, it just triggered the imagination. I liked it immediately,” Lange told Variety at the show’s premiere on Thursday. “It was an opportunity to do something that’s never been done before.”

“Mother Play” opened April 25 at the Helen Hayes Theatre. It’s directed by Tina Landau (“The SpongeBob Musical: Live on Stage!”) and written by Paula Vogel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright (“How I Learned to Drive”). The story is based on Vogel’s life and complex relationships with her mother and brother. It’s led by a three-person ensemble in which Lange plays Phyllis, (Vogel’s mom) Jim Parsons plays Carl (Vogel’s brother) and Celia Keenan-Bolger (“To Kill a Mockingbird”) plays Martha (Vogel, herself). The play spans over 40 years as watches Phyllis, a single mom, struggles to accept her children’s sexuality and, later, Carl’s battle with AIDS.

Vogel had the idea of “Mother Play” in her head for 20 years. It took her three weeks to finally write it.

“I think it takes a while to understand how much harder older generations had it than we did. So that led me to want to think about it, write about it and craft, a theatrical ritual of forgiveness,” Vogel says. “I don’t know of any other way to talk to the people I’ve lost, other than writing something for the stage and hope that they hear it, wherever they are.”

Lange, Parsons and Keenan-Bolger were able to bond on and off the stage through the show’s humor.

“Something that develops early on in the play, and so for us developed early on and working on it was how Carl and his mother kind of have a wicked sense of humor together. I mean, the very first scene they’re joking about suicide and given electric shock therapy and stuff like that,” Parsons says. “So there’s this kind of wicked darkness to they’re joking around with each other.”

The cast engaged in viewpoints, a physical kinesthetic response, in workshops prior to rehearsal which “built a kind of container for this family,” Keenan-Bolger says.

Vogel said what she hopes people will take specific messages away from her extremely personal work.

“I want us to figure out how we can get past our differences in our living rooms so that all children are loved,” she says.

Lange won the Tony Award for best actress in a play in 2016 for her work in the Ryan Murphy-produced revival of Eugene O’Neill’s seminal thespian drama “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.”



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