Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Actress Stephanie Zimbalist Really is Living on Love

By Lauren Yarger
For actress Stephanie Zimbalist, starring in a play called Living on Love seems appropriate since she seems to live on a lot of love in real life.

The actress, who has starred in numerous stage and TV roles, but who is most widely known for her stint as private eye Laura Holt on TV's "Remington Steele," is starring in the Connecticut premiere of the comedy Living on Love, opening this weekend at Waterburys Seven Angels Theatre  -- a place she loves.

She has known Seven Angels' Artistic Director Semina DeLaurentis for years and one day her friend handed her a script that she had been considering as a starring vehicle for herself: Joe DiPietro's Living on Love. 

That's one of the reasons she loves Semina, Zimbalist said -- her willingness to put other above herself, even though she is an amazing actress herself. Zimbalist said she found DeLaurentis' performance in Nunsense "electrifying."

"We are thrilled and honored to have Stephanie return to the Seven Angels stage, especially for our 25th Anniversary season," DeLaurentis said. "I think she will be wonderful as Raquel. Besides being such a talented actress, I think her experience and background will bring such an understanding and a richness to the role."

OK. There's a lot of love there -- even if Zimbalist's character doesn't always find it on stage. DiPietro's play with music is based on Peccadillo by Garson Kanin. Zimbalist plays an opera diva who discovers that her larger-than-life maestro husband has become enamored with the lovely young lady hired to ghostwrite his largely fictional autobiography. To retaliate, she hires a handsome, young scribe of her own. Sparks fly, silverware is thrown and romance blossoms in the most unexpected ways.

Zimbalist agreed even though she hasn't been working much recently. Part of the reason for that, she will tell you is because she doesn't play the games necessary to keep an actress at the forefront of the competition in Hollywood. She doesn't do BOTOX® or plastic surgery to try to look younger, which you have to do "if you want to be in the race," she said.

"I don't look in the mirror a lot."

She doesn't say that as a joke. She means it. Zimbalist has always been comfortable being herself and her confidence, joined with a genuine humility that comes across in interviews and on stage, make her popular with women. She strikes us as real, as someone we know, or want to be, and we love her -- a notion that makes her laugh, but in an appreciative way.

She really doesn't need to take roles at this stage in her career. She was fortunate and worked a lot when she was young. If there were some roles she didn't get, "then I never got to play them" she says without any longing for what might have been. A lifestyle of always chasing more or what's popular isn't a priority for her, she said. There's that confidence kicking in....

So why Seven Angels? Perhaps the most appealing part of doing Living on Love was the chance to come to the family home she loves in Connecticut. She and her long-haired dachshund,  Scampi, would have the chance to live in the home of her beloved grandfather, Efrem Zimbalist, a celebrated violinist, composer, and teacher and director of the Curtis Institute of Music. Her father, actor Efrem Zimbalist, Jr, who starred in TV shows like "77 Sunset Strip" and "The FBI," as well as playing a recurring guest role on "Remington Steele" opposite daughter, Stephanie, is buried at the homestead.

His passing in 2014 is another reason why the actress hasn't worked much recently. There have been memorials and other business to take care of, and she's needed a time of emotional healing.

"He was my best friend, so it's hard."

But with all the love involved, she said yes to Seven Angels. Working "keeps my blades sharp," Zimbalist said, and in the case of  Living on Love, the process has seemed more like spending time with friends she loves than working.

"It's a lark," she said of Joe DiPietro's play, which had a run last season in New York featuring opera star Renee Fleming in her Broadway debut.

"He has a nice rhythm in his writing," she said of the playwright. "It's easy to learn," though she did voice a little concern about being able to memorize as quickly as her costars (Steve Vinovich, R. Bruce Connelly, Michael Irvin Pollard, Alex Glossman and Ali Breneman)

"Steve and I have wanted to work together forever," she said. And working again with old friends has been another thing to love.

"Jim (Glossman, a friend from Zimbalist's days at Brown Ledge Camp in Mallett's Bay, VT) is a wonderful director," she said. They have worked together on shows at Shadowland Theatre in Ellenville, NY, She also loves being reunited with lighting designer Richard Currie, also a Brown Ledge chum.

Doing what she loves with people she loves in a place she loves. Yes, Zimbalist is the embodiment of living on love.

Living on Love opens Saturday night and runs through Dec. 6 Performances are Thursday-Sunday at 8 PM with matinees at 2 on Thursdays and Saturdays. No show on Thanksgiving. Tickets $39 to $57 depending on day or night of performance. Doors and Devil’s Corner Bar open one hour before curtain. Box Office: 1 Plank Road, Waterbury, CT; 203-757-4676; sevenangelstheatre.org,

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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