‘Taxi’ actress headed to the Bucks County Playhouse

Marilu Hen­ner

Her own life story could very well form the basis of a great the­at­ric­al piece.

“My mom owned a dan­cing school in our back­yard for about 200 stu­dents between the ages of two and 80, in­clud­ing the loc­al nuns who came over for stretch classes. She also ran a beauty shop in our kit­chen. And then there was my Uncle Charles, who lived up­stairs with a whole me­na­ger­ie of an­im­als and his boy­friend, Charles. He also ran a cat hos­pit­al on the roof and taught art at the Cath­ol­ic school next door.

“As for me, I star­ted teach­ing dance when I was about 14 and al­ways loved be­ing the cen­ter of at­ten­tion. And I al­ways loved to sing, dance and act.”

That’s Marilu Hen­ner, prob­ably best known as Elaine Nardo in the hit ’70s sit­com Taxi, de­scrib­ing some of her early up­bring­ing and the kinds of things that went in­to mak­ing her the per­son she is today.

And today, Hen­ner is star­ring at the Bucks County Play­house in Chris­toph­er Dur­ang’s Van­ya and So­nia and Masha and Spike through Aug. 10.

The ac­tion starts with sib­lings Van­ya and So­nia, who have nev­er left the con­fines of their child­hood home in bu­col­ic Bucks County, while their sis­ter Masha (Hen­ner) has been gal­li­vant­ing around the word as a suc­cess­ful movie star.

A sud­den and sur­prise vis­it from Masha and her 20-something boy­friend, Spike, throws the nor­mally quiet house­hold in­to ut­ter up­heav­al as its res­id­ents and vis­it­ors get swept up in a mix­ture of lust, rivalry, re­gret and the sud­den pos­sib­il­ity of es­cape.

Hen­ner says that every new play of­fers its own chal­lenges.

“And with each new char­ac­ter, you have to find sim­il­ar­it­ies, if you can. Some­times, you have to chan­nel people in your fam­ily to make it work, but I’m def­in­itely chan­nel­ing my­self in this one.

“Masha is out­rageous, and an out­rageous char­ac­ter is al­ways fun to play,” Hen­ner con­tin­ued. “She’s very dra­mat­ic but there’s also something very child­like about her. She’s full of en­ergy but very sens­it­ive. There’s a vul­ner­able side to her. She’s me but without the years of ther­apy I’ve had.”

In 2013, the play won the Tony Award for Best Play, the Drama Desk Award for Out­stand­ing Play and the New York Drama Crit­ics’ Circle Award for Best Play. And Hen­ner, who ad­mits she nev­er saw the play be­fore, agrees with the awards whole­heartedly. With the en­ergy of a teen­ager, Hen­ner, 66, earned the nick­name “Per­petu­al Mo­tion” from her par­ents. Along with star­ring in over 30 films, six Broad­way shows and two hit clas­sic sit­coms (Taxi and Even­ing Shade), the five-time Golden Globe nom­in­ee is a New York Times best-selling au­thor of nine books on health, par­ent­ing, memory and life­style im­prove­ment.

She also hosts her own ra­dio show, and is one of only 12 people doc­u­mented with Highly Su­per­i­or Auto­bi­o­graph­ic­al Memory, mean­ing she can re­mem­ber ba­sic­ally every day of her life.

Cur­rently writ­ing her 10th book, Hen­ner says she’s hav­ing “a ball and lov­ing everything I do. But I would say that most of all, I love be­ing on stage. I love the im­me­di­acy and the chem­istry I get from the audi­ence. When I do film, people of­ten ask me to ‘tone it down a little.’ But this is me!” ••

For times and tick­et in­form­a­tion, call 215-862-2121. 

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