Angela Lansbury, now 81, has returned to New York and is performing in Terrence McNally’s play “Deuce,” which opens next Sunday at the Music Box Theatre.

In Sunday’s New York Times, there’s a lovely profile of Lansbury’s life and her work. Of her return to Broadway, four years after the death of her husband/manager, Jesse Green writes:

If her return to Broadway has been greeted with rejoicing, it has also occasioned some concern, as when a widow starts dating a man of unknown intentions. Is he good enough for her? Can she stand the possible heartbreak?

Certainly, “Deuce” is no cakewalk like Miss Lansbury’s last Broadway run, a revival of “Mame” in 1983. Mame was a musical role she knew cold, having created it to great acclaim in 1966. “Deuce” is both new and exhausting. For 90 intermissionless minutes, she plays one-half of a retired doubles-tennis pair about to be feted at a U.S. Open championship; they watch a match and open old wounds. Neither Miss Lansbury nor Marian Seldes, who plays her other half, leaves the stage.

“There’s no hiding,” Mr. McNally said. “You’re mercilessly exposed, with no chance to drop your shoulders or blow your nose.” And then there are the 6,000 words of dialogue Miss Lansbury had to memorize.

She could certainly have chosen less demanding material. But insofar as “Deuce” is a play about age and celebrity — “how women become invisible even if they were once huge stars,” Miss Lansbury said — she has the advantage of having studied the matter.

And on picking up and starting over:

The pressing question for Miss Lansbury has never been what you did but what you do next, and because it seemed unanswerable after her husband’s death, she basically froze in place.

“What happens when your family grows up?” she asked rhetorically. “You are a widow, and all they want is to know you’re O.K. My daughter lives nearby, she’s a restaurateur; she would come over every day to do the crossword, but was busy with her work and her own family. I had become a responsibility and I don’t like that feeling. To tell the truth, I was also pretty bored. And a little daunted. People who lose a mate often become sick or die quickly. It took four years, but finally I said I’ve got to take care of myself. I’ve got to make the first move. So I called my business manager and asked, ‘Can I afford a small condo in New York?'”

She could, and one day earlier this month, after previews for “Deuce” had started, she served tea and homemade brownies there. […]

And so, in buying the New York condo, for perhaps the first time in her life she made a decision that considered no one else. And then, a few months later, she read “Deuce” and made another.


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