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Taking the Waters

Unusual Way

Veteran actress Viola Harris co-stars alongside Faith Prince and Richard Thomas in Terrence McNally's new play, Unusual Acts of Devotion.

By Philadelphia
Viola Harris in
Unusual Acts of Devotion
(© Mark Garvin)
Viola Harris in
Unusual Acts of Devotion
(© Mark Garvin)
Having gone through numerous auditions last year to gain the role of Mrs. Darnell in the world premiere of Terrence McNally's Unusual Acts of Devotion at the Philadelphia Theatre Company, veteran actress Viola Harris was afraid she'd lost a great opportunity when the play was suddenly postponed. But it's finally on its feet -- with a cast headed by Faith Prince and Richard Thomas -- and she couldn't be happier to be part of the experience.

"It's a very exciting project to be a part of -- and to discover just how loved Terrence is in Philadelphia," she notes. "The play is about these five people who all live on the same floor of a building in Greenwich Village; there are these two couples, one of whom is young and still happily married, and one who are older and having some problems. And I'm the old woman in the building, who's sort of a pain in the neck, but we all care about each other. I think it's a very provocative piece -- it really has something to say about relationships -- but it's also very tender, touching, and warm, and ultimately very moving."

Since it is a new play, Harris expected a lot more changes to be made during previews, but was thrilled to find out that wasn't the case. "Terrence and our wonderful director, Leonard Foglia, have been working on this for quite a while, so there was much less to redo than I had anticipated -- which is great at my age," she notes. "And I love the fact that the play is very rich theatrically, with a lot of street sounds and dancing. I never got to live in Greenwich Village -- I live near Gramercy Park now after spending 30 years in Los Angeles with my husband and kids -- but the play feels very New York to me."


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