For those of you who were riding the Number 1 uptown local this morning, I'm the fellow who was laughing out loud at the book I was reading. Patti LuPone: A Memoir — the brand-new autobiography by the star of Broadway's upcoming Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown — is one of the best theater memoirs I have read in years. LuPone pulls no punches and takes no prisoners; her stories about Andrew Lloyd Webber, for example, are sharp enough to cut glass. She tells plenty of stories on herself, not afraid to own up to her mistakes or confess to her own occasionally wild behavior. But this lady is an artist to her core, and her passion for acting and for the theater registers on every page. The last actor who wrote about the theater and about herself with such candor was the late Ruth Gordon — like LuPone, a complete American original.
LuPone became a star in 1979, when Evita opened on Broadway, and has stayed a star ever since. Within the past ten years I've met LuPone several times in connection with OPERA NEWS — she's been on the cover twice — and been completely charmed by her professionalism and her wit. But I date my time as a LuPone fan from the winter of 1973–74, when I saw her and her fellow members of The Acting Company in New York at the Billy Rose Theater on Broadway and on tour at the Spingold Theater at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. I admired her ripely bitchy Lucy Lockit in The Beggar's Opera, but I loved her as Irina in The Three Sisters. It's my favorite Chekhov play, and more than thirty years later, that Acting Company staging by Boris Tumarin is still at the top of my list. In the last act, Irina has a heartwrenching scene with Baron Tuzenbach, a man whom she does not love, but who is about to die in a duel. I've never forgotten the way LuPone looked at Norman Snow, her Tuzenbach: with a small, tight lift of her chin, LuPone's Irina swallowed her pity for the Baron but seemed to increase the distance between them by miles. You knew that both of them were doomed, and that neither of them deserved it. It was a great moment — and LuPone's book brought back memories of many more of them.
F. PAUL DRISCOLL
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