By Arnold Wayne Jones

Houston actress Annalee Jefferies talks about her first show in Dallas, the male parts she’s played and the challenge of playing a lesbian in ‘The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead’

Annalee Jefferies – Photo by Sandy Underwood

The title of Dallas Theater Center’s current production, "The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful," might suggest that there are at least three actresses onstage at some point in the play. But while all three characters show up — and four more — only one performer plays all the parts.

Annalee Jefferies delivers a tour-de-force performance, taking on all the roles, from Rhonda, a frumpy suburban housewife to her boorish husband Graham to a four-year-old boy and a lesbian doctor.

Jefferies, who spent years in residence at Houston’s Alley Theater and has frequently appeared at the Hartford Stage in Connecticut, is a native Texan with a wide-ranging background. As a child, she lived for four years in Australia (the homeland of "Blonde" author Robert Hewett), then studied acting in London with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. At age 24, she was added to the resident company of Washington’s Arena Stage.

Jefferies shared her thoughts about her long career, up to the challenge of playing men and children.

"The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead," Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. Through March 30. Sundays, Tuesdays–Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays–Saturdays at 8 p.m., weekend matinees at 2 p.m. $14–$60. 214-522-8499.

Q. You’ve spent much of your career working with the Alley Theater in Houston. How is it for a Houston girl to play in Dallas?
A. Wonderful. I haven’t been here before and I love the Dallas audiences. They’re unbelievably reactive — except at the matinees with the old gray-haired ladies…. A lot of actors like the blame the audience [when they don’t react to a show], but it’s not like everybody gets together in the lobby and says OK, let’s not laugh.

Q. You were in residence at the Arena Stage, where I once saw a production of "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" where Kathleen Turner entered through a pool of water. Have you ever had any cool entrances in your career?
A. So many! People have given me so many glorious entrances. Probably the best was playing Blanche in 100 performances of "A Streetcar Named Desire." The director, Michael Wilson, took all these duets out of Tennessee Williams one-acts to set up New Orleans. Chaos hits and Blanche is going between all these people and suddenly she’s at the front door of Stella’s house and you see: she’s gone through hell to get here. She’s a survivor.

Q. The first character you play in "The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead," Rhonda …
A. … Which is a dreadful title. Right? It’s deceiving — didn’t you think you were coming to a comedy?

Q. Yes, I heard several people say that in the lobby during intermission….
A. And after my first two characters, all the guys are going, "How did I get dragged to this shit? I don’t want to hear someone’s divorce story." Then [I come on as Alex, the lesbian physician, and] the men say, "Not a dyke now!" But I have to pray they’ll stick with me when we get into the story [by the third character’s appearance].

Q. Do they really do that with Alex? I like her character the most in the show.
A. I like Alex, too — she’s so bright. But you can’t imagine being on my side. I can tell you there are people in the audience that are just checking out after the first two characters.

Q. Does that bother you?
A. Let’s just say I didn’t write this; I’m doing what I can with the material.

Q. Do you like any of the characters more than the others?
A. I have to like each one of these characters if I want the audience to like them or despise them. I have to know what drives Graham [the crass husband of the "Vengeful Redhead," Rhonda]. He thinks the whole world is against him, and if I believe that fully, you can have your opinion about that. But I can’t judge them. I don’t think any of them are intentionally bad.

Q. What’s it like being a woman and playing a man like Graham?
A. This is my sixth time to play a man in different plays, and I am dying for the day that I can play a nice man, a good person — that would be more of a challenge. The way that writers write, a man being played by a woman is usually despicable. But you could overdo it and comment on his grossness instead of just letting what he is doing come out.

Q. The other male you play, Matthew, is just a little boy. How was that?
A. He was my most difficult character. I didn’t want to lie, but I’m a long way away from four-and-a-half and it was hard finding a voice that didn’t sound like Edith Ann. I was embarrassed by the sound of my own voice even in front of my director until it came.

Q. It’s interesting you mention Edith Ann, because your performance reminded me Lily Tomlin in "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe."
A. The play doesn’t come anywhere near that, but thank you.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 21, 2008управление имиджем предприятия