Martin could leave indelible mark on `Tattoo’

Boston Herald, MA
May 12 2004

Martin could leave indelible mark on `Tattoo’
By Terry Byrne
Wednesday, May 12, 2004

The passions of Serafina, Tennessee Williams’ heroine in “The Rose
Tattoo,” range from grief and anger to joy and discovery. But reaching
from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other isn’t such a
stretch, says actress Andrea Martin.

“You can’t be afraid of your emotions,” says Martin, who opens in “The
Rose Tattoo” at the Huntington Theatre on Friday. “Americans tend to
be ashamed of their emotions, but although I was raised in Portland,
Maine, my heritage is Armenian and my family is very expressive.”

Martin’s work is always characterized by her physical expressions of
emotion, whether in her Tony-nominated performance as Aunt Ella in the
Broadway revival of “Oklahoma!,” the film “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,”
“Betty’s Summer Vacation” (her last outing at the Huntington) or her
legendary years as part of SCTV. Her ability to make her emotions
readily available, says Huntington director Nicholas Martin, made
him want to produce the play with her.

“`The Rose Tattoo’ rarely is performed because it’s so difficult
to find the right actor and actress for the roles,” says Nicholas
Martin. “It’s hard to find someone who can play this many colors. But
Andrea has a sexuality about her that’s not conventional, but very
grounded in her personality, in her absolute focus on the work. She
has all the makings of a star except the bitchiness.”

Despite the play’s rich dramatic tale, the director says it’s essential
to see Williams’ sense of humor.

“The first act is tricky,” he says, “because you’re in and out of
so many emotions, but it really pays off because it prepares you for
the journey.”

“The Rose Tattoo” follows Serafina as she struggles with the grief of
her husband’s death. She has made him into a hero and does everything
she can to protect his image, even as she and her teenage daughter
discover he was not what he seemed.

“She’s fascinating to play,” says Andrea Martin, “because she’s trying
so hard to hold onto her dream of what she calls perfection. And
perfection, her whole world in fact, is defined by the man she
married. I understand it, because my mother was married at 17, Serafina
was only 14, and my mother never looked at my father realistically. If
she ever believed there was imperfection, it would destroy her world.”

In the play, Serafina tries her best to shut out the world,
until she meets a man who unexpectedly opens her heart back up to
life and her own desires.

“I wear a blue dress for her meeting with Alvaro,” says Martin,
“because blue is such an expansive color. Listen to me,” she says
with a laugh, “I’m getting to be just like Serafina, I’m believing in
signs. But I think you have to believe in what she believes in. To
make this play effective, you can’t drive it by a style of acting,
you have to drive it by the truth and dignity of the characters.”

Perhaps it’s Martin’s ability to find the truth behind every character
that has made her a mainstay on TV, on Broadway, in films (she’s in
the new Olsen twins film “New York Minute”) and now at the Huntington.

“It’s funny,” she says, “my career has never had momentum, but it’s
had consistency, so I guess I shouldn’t complain. My career path went
backwards, starting with TV, then film and legitimate theater. It used
to bother me that I was only seen as a comedic actress, but people will
peg you as anything unless you prove you can do something different.”

In fact, Martin’s ability to move beyond expectations keeps her in
demand. After the run of “The Rose Tattoo,” she’s in discussions
to star in Thornton Wilder’s “The Matchmaker” in Washington, D.C.,
in September and later in the musical version of that play, “Hello,
Dolly,” at the Stratford Theatre Festival in Canada.

( “The Rose Tattoo,” at the Huntington Theatre, Friday-June 13.
Tickets: $41-$69. Call 617-266-0800. )