On the Orange Carpet: Celia Keenan-Bolger Is Playing Paula Vogel Onstage in Mother Play | Playbill

Opening Night On the Orange Carpet: Celia Keenan-Bolger Is Playing Paula Vogel Onstage in Mother Play

Priscilla Lopez, Mary-Louise Parker, and Carla Gugino were among those in attendance for opening night of the new Broadway play.

Paula Vogel, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Jessica Lange, Jim Parsons, and Tina Landau Tricia Baron

The world premiere of Mother Play by Paula Vogel officially opened April 25 via Second Stage Theater. Read the reviews here.

On the orange and black carpet, the emotions were flowing. Set in 1962 on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., Mother Play explores the power family holds over us through matriarch Phyllis and her children, Carl and Martha, as they reckon with unpacking the past. The story is just a step past autobiographical for Vogel.

"I've wanted to write this play about my mother for a very long time," Vogel confessed on the carpet. "I also wanted to show to people that the brother I lost to HIV a long time ago, actually was my mother and my father." While Vogel's name has been changed in the narrative to Martha, both her mother Phyllis and her brother Carl maintain their original names.

Jim Parsons Tricia Baron

Vogel's adoration for her brother, and gratitude for his counsel, serve as the guiding light of the play. For Jim Parsons, it was more than a little intimidating to occupy a figure of such innate goodness. "Man, Paula's love for him..." Parsons shakes his head, smiling. "He is so colorful, and so lifelike, because she has such a fondness for Carl. I feel very fortunate to be in a place now where I am able to enjoy the responsibility of playing somebody who is such an important aspect of a person's life who is so important to me. I've revered Paula Vogel for years, and to be in one of her new plays, playing somebody who actually steered and impacted her in the ways that her brother did, is kind of profound"

Click here to purchase the opening night Playbill for Mother Play

As a single mother struggling to emotionally connect with her children after the abandonment of her husband, Jessica Lange faced quite the challenge when she agreed to play Phyllis. "It's fascinating to play somebody that is as mercurial as Phyllis," Lange explains. "There are these extraordinary swings, all within a matter of moments, this terrible sorrow and then this kind of bravado... In life, we all make mistakes, we all end up making a decision that's a wrong, and I think this character shows how that really affects your life. To play this kind of mother is foreign to me, but as an actor it is really interesting to discover why and how she moves the way she does."

Watching Lange inhabit her mother, with whom her relationship has long been strained, was remarkably cathartic. "I am completely changed by watching Jessica Lange work," Vogel says, her voice trembling. "Jessica is transformational. To me as an artist, watching her work... I wanted to make a theatrical ritual of forgiveness. We as parents and children learn to look past our divisions, because we're only on earth for a short time. I don't know of any other way to talk to my mother or my brother who are no longer with me, than to write a play and to share it with everyone."

When Vogel told Celia Keenan-Bolger that she would write a play for her more than a decade ago, Keenan-Bolger never would have imagined that the role would be Vogel herself. When that became clear, Keenan-Bolger had one goal in mind.

"I wanted to make Paula proud. I wanted Paula to feel like this portrait of her family, that she has drawn so carefully and with such care and humor, that we would give her the gift that I think she has given all of us in her writing for all of these years. She deserved our best." 

See photos from opening night of Mother Play below, with red carpet attendees Priscilla Lopez, Mary-Louise Parker, Carla Gugino, and more.

Photos: Jessica Lange, Jim Parsons, and Celia-Keenan Bolger on Mother Play Opening Night

Directed by Tina Landau (SpongeBob SquarePants) Keenan-Bolger, Lange, and Parsons are supported by understudies Jillian Geurts, Tasha Lawrence, and Zachary Prince.

Mother Play features scenic design by David Zinn, costume design by Toni-Leslie James, lighting design by Jen Schriever, sound design by Jill BC Du Boff, production design by Shawn Duan, hair and wig by Matthew Armentrout, and vocal coaching by Gigi Buffington.

The dance within the piece has been choreographed by Christopher Gattelli. Casting is by The Telsey Office. The stage manager is Braun Bauer, and John C. Moore is the production stage manager.

Today’s Most Popular News:

Blocking belongs
on the stage,
not on websites.

Our website is made possible by
displaying online advertisements to our visitors.

Please consider supporting us by
whitelisting playbill.com with your ad blocker.
Thank you!