It’s always thrilling to watch veteran actress Judith Light wear one of the many masks of comedy and tragedy in the trunk of theatrical disguises she uses to enchant, mesmerize and grip her growing audience of admirers on screens and stages large and small. In Neil LaBute’s new play All the Ways to Say I Love You, at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in Greenwich Village, she wears them all. The result is powerful and luminous.
“Please, the full company of All the Ways to Say I Love You—to the set, please.” Such is the politely overripe way stage manager David Lurie summons his cast to work these days. Promptly and dutifully, the full company of All the Ways to Say I Love You materializes: one (and only one) Judith Light. “We all make jokes about it,” the actress confesses, “but it’s pretty frightening. You’re so naked, so exposed. There’s just nothing to fall back on—absolutely nothing. It’s a trapeze act without a net.”
For the first time in her career, Light is finding herself all by her lonesome on a stage without a single star to kick around or support. That’s ironic because support is her strong suit. She wins awards for it—two Tony Awards and two Drama Desk Awards in the Featured Actress category for Other Desert Cities and The Assembled Parties and nominations from both groups for Lombardi. This year she picked up an Outer Critics Circle Award for supporting Thérèse Raquin, and she’s currently contending for an Emmy as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (Transparent).
All the Ways to Say I Love You, now previewing to premiere September 28 at the Lucille Lortel Theater, is also the first time Neil LaBute has ever written a solo show for a woman. “I did one with Ed Harris about 10 years ago called Wrecks, and, five years before that, I did a trio of solo pieces called Bash,” he recalls, “but I’ve never written a one-woman before, and I just thought it was about time, so I went off on a tear.”
Aaron Eckhart wants to show me some skin. We’re tucked away in the back of L’Ermitage hotel in Beverly Hills in the early afternoon, where Eckhart is nursing a Diet Coke, despite engaging the sommelier for a good 10 minutes in fluent French. The 48-year-old actor—known for his roles as charming if morally ambiguous characters, like Harvey Dent (or Two-Face) in The Dark Knight, a slick tobacco lobbyist in Thank You for Smoking and the sociopathic Neil LaBute’s In the Company of Men—sticks his arm out for me to inspect. He’s smiling in a way that underlines the basic premise of his appeal: With that cleft chin, that matinee idol swoosh of blond hair, the rugged stubble, who could resist taking Eckhart up on the chance to touch him?