"When he did it in the 1960s, there were a lot of young Turks. Young critics, they were feeling their oats, and they just didn't feel that a play about a lot of old bats living in a retirement home in England was going to be interesting, really.
"It's lovely to be acting with Lauren Bacall. We're been friends for a long time--since about 1956, since she met Jason Robards when he and I did The Disenchanted. So we've known each other just socially all that time and we've often talked about doing a play together. She's wonderful to work with.
"I don't read reviews [anymore]," Harris continues. "You get terribly depressed if they're bad for you and if they're good then you start playing your reviews, emphasizing those things that the reviewer likes. It's grown on me over the years, not reading them. When I was younger, I tried not to read them, but I really have succeeded this time. I just let it go. The bouquets you get are lovely, but they fade, while the brickbats stay stinging for a long time."
Harris well understands the appeal of Waiting in the Wings. "This play is about the theater, and is a gift to the theater. I think audiences love plays about actors because they like to see what happens behind the scenes." In The Royal Family, about the great Barrymore acting clan, Harris played the role inspired by Ethel Barrymore. "And there's the daughter, Gwen, who wants to go off to marry a stockbroker and I say, 'Darling, you must go on with your career. You're so talented. One day they'll look at me and say, "That's her mother!" And I'll be so [Harris pauses poignantly, playfully] ... happy!' And I thought, it's beginning to happen to me now, because everyone wants to talk to me about Jennifer, asking me if she wants do things. 'Do you think your daughter might be free?' they ask."
Harris tells me that her husband "has just finished a novel which he's very pleased with... I don't think he'll ever do a play. It's a different talent. He's written a movie script of one of his own books, but I don't think he's really interested in doing a play."
As for the future, Harris is weighing several offers, but for now hopes that Waiting in the Wings will continue at another Broadway house. (A Moon for the Misbegotten, starring Gabriel Byrne and Cherry Jones, opens March 22 at the Walter Kerr Theater in March.)
"Home base is Winston Salem, North Carolina," Harris says. "We also have a little flat in London, and one in New York." But as we leave her dressing room and walk across the set of The Wings, the fictional residential home for retired actresses in Waiting in the Wings, I can't help but feel that the erstwhile star of An Inspector Calls, Pack of Lies, and dozens of other plays is already home.