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Remembering When Life Was Sweet

CFA alum stars in Huntington’s Come Back, Little Sheba

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“It works out for me. Whenever ‘Marie’ is said, I just respond automatically,” Marie Polizzano says with a laugh at the coincidence of casting. “Character name, real name, it’s all good.”

Polizzano (CFA’07) plays the character Marie in the Huntington Theatre Company’s production of William Inge’s Come Back, Little Sheba, directed by David Cromer and playing through April 26 in the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts.

Inge’s poignant and at times painful drama explores the marital discord of 40-ish Doc and Lola Delaney, played by Adrianne Krstansky and Derek Hasenstab. Lola flirts with tradesmen, mourning her lost youth and fading beauty, while chiropractor Doc, a recovering alcoholic, regrets not fulfilling his dream of becoming a doctor. Their disaffection comes to the fore when they take in a boarder, the vivacious college student Marie.

“She’s fun to play, because she’s 18 and right on the brink of womanhood and because everything is bright and exciting and fresh,” says Polizzano. “She’s testing out what she wants and kind of exploring things. It’s very positive.”

“Everything” includes the attentions of a beau or two, including Turk (Max Carpenter), and other activities that contrast with the tired union of Lola and Doc.

“A lot of Marie’s experience in the play deals with love and sex and guys and figuring out what’s important,” the actress says. “It’s been fun to try and remember what that is, or what that was for me.”

Cromer played the stage manager in a Huntington production of Our Town in 2012, and when the company’s artistic director, Peter DuBois, asked him for a wish list for their next collaboration, Sheba was on top. “Inge has a combination of emotion and theatrical revelation that I find captivating,” DuBois says. “I think of Inge as a kind of American Vintage, so I told David we would love to produce it here. David had to come hand in hand with the play—he has an exceptional touch with these finely tuned, fragilely symphonic vintage plays.”

Both productions have been staged in the Calderwood Pavilion’s intimate Roberts Studio Theatre, where, according to DuBois, Cromer can exploit “the magic of a small space where you and the actors are breathing the same air,” and can use that intimacy to “bring out the beauty of the play he is exploring.”

Polizzano says her years at BU and previous experience in dance helped her with what became a geometric progression of work at the Huntington before she left for New York a couple of years ago. She was the choreographer’s assistant on Pirates! Or, Gilbert and Sullivan Plunder’d (2009), an understudy and choreographer’s assistant on She Loves Me (2008), and an understudy in How Shakespeare Won the West (2008). Finally she made it onstage when she was cast as Lauren, what DuBois calls a pivotal role, in Circle Mirror Transformation (2010).

“She nailed the part,” DuBois says. “She has the shy awkwardness of the tentative wallflower that Lauren is for most of the play, and then the theatrical final moments, where we see her aging years before our eyes.”

There’s a sense of community backstage at the Huntington that sets it apart, Polizzano says. “I’ve been talking with the cast, and we all just feel so taken care of and so supported. For the meet-and-greet on day one, the room was packed full with staff and crew and the production team. There’s just a sort of great ensemble energy in this place. I love working here.”

Polizzano, who says returning for Sheba has made her want to move back to Boston or perhaps divide her time between Boston and New York, has also worked with Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, the Stoneham Theatre, and New Repertory Theatre, while her New York credits include Ensemble Studio Theatre, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, and the New York International Fringe Festival.

“I love New York, there’s so much there, but the constant hustle is exhausting,” she says. “I think Boston is the best of both worlds. The quality of life is great, and I just feel it’s a really grounding place to live.”

The Huntington Theatre Company production of Come Back, Little Sheba runs through April 26 in the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont St., Boston. Tickets may be purchased online at huntingtontheatre.org, by phone at 617-266-0800, or in person at the BU Theatre box office, 264 Huntington Ave., or the BCA box office. Patrons 35 and younger may purchase $25 tickets (ID required) for any production, and there is a $5 discount for seniors. Military personnel can purchase tickets for $15, and student rush tickets are also available for $15. Members of the BU community get $10 off (ID required). Call 617-266-0800 for more information.

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Joel Brown, writer, BU Today at Boston University
Joel Brown

Joel Brown can be reached at jbnbpt@bu.edu.

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