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Help Is On The Way

Margaret Colin plays the disturbed wife of a ranch owner in Temporary Help. logo
Margaret Colin and Chad Allen in Temporary Help
(Photo: © Joan Marcus)
Margaret Colin's favorite role is "Mom" -- offscreen, that is. While the actress's commitment to her sons Sam and Joe and to her husband, actor Justin Deas, has caused her to turn down many a project, Colin is equally committed to exploring roles that take advantage of her intelligence and sexuality.

But despite her more than 20 years in the business -- with parts ranging from Margo Montgomery on As The World Turns and leads in four prime-time TV series (including Foley Square and Now and Again) to a turn as Harrison Ford's wife in The Devil's Own and her award-winning performance in the title role of the Broadway play Jackie -- finding parts of that type isn't always easy. "I've been offered too many roles lately that are just well-behaved women, and that's just too one-dimensional for me," says Colin. "I want to see women who are crying in the kitchen and laughing in the bedroom!"

This quest to "get away from Mom," as Colin puts it, explains why the actress didn't hesitate in accepting the role of Faye Streber, a sexually provocative yet decidedly disturbed ranch owner's wife, in the New York premiere of David Wiltse's thriller Temporary Help. The show is being presented by the brand new Revelation Theater Company at Theater Four through January 12. Without giving too much of the plot away -- although the play is based on a true story -- nasty things happen to some of the ranch hands after Faye gets done sleeping with them. But the newest ranch hand (played by Chad Allen, formerly of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman) has his own tricks up his sleeve.

"It's exciting playing a woman who has never thought about owning a sweater set," laughs Colin, who was last seen as a well dressed suburban housewife in the film Unfaithful. "Faye is more upfront about her sexuality than the women I usually play on film and television. She has a lot of cards to play and she's really the engine that drives the plot, which I find thrilling. Of course, she's also very damaged, and I won't deny that that's a scary place to go to."

Colin first heard about the role from actress Karen Allen when the two were co-starring in the Roundabout production of Speaking in Tongues. Allen had played Faye in a previous production (at the Westport Country Playhouse) and thought Colin might be interested. "I thought [Karen] was out of her mind," Colin recalls with a laugh. "But later the script came to me through my agent, I read it, and I was very impressed." So impressed that she even recruited her own co-star, Jekyll & Hyde's Robert Cuccioli. "Bob and my husband had done Guys & Dolls together in Pittsburgh last summer, and when Justin and I were talking about actors to play Karl, he suggested Bob," she says. "Bob is completely dreamy -- it was fascinating to watch people fall in love with him every single night. So I called him and said 'You're big, you're tall, you're strong -- come play with me.'" Cuccioli appears in the show as Faye's husband, Karl.

The marriage in Temporary Help is admittedly a far cry from Colin's real-life relationship, which is almost two decades old. "They are both hurt people who are not healing," she says of Faye and Karl. "I think they came together for a good reason when they were young, but they're not good together now. Still, I can't say that I don't draw on my own life [in playing the role]; I always try to work with something I know. Justin is quite a character and we work really hard at our marriage." While Colin and Cuccioli are newcomers to the piece, Chad Allen has been playing his role since the play was first produced three years ago. "It's very comforting to have someone so supportive, who knows his way around this dark world," Colin notes in praise of Allen. "He's quite a resource for us. On the other hand, it's a new production; so, to some extent, Chad is staggering around just like the rest of us!"

Margaret Colin
Colin says she's not really interested in pursuing another television series for precisely that reason. "I really love playing different people, exploring different characters," she says. Indeed, she left the soap world at the height of her popularity in pursuit of such challenges, but she has not been forgotten by her fans. "Margo lives on," she laughs. "Every day, Justin and I walk down the street and people stop us, though they greet Justin as Buzz [his current character on Guiding Light] and not as Tom [the character he played on ATWT opposite Colin]. If they come to see me in this play because of that part, I am very happy to have them. Why should they forget Margo? I am very proud of the work I did and very flattered that people remember it."

Had she not become involved in Temporary Help, she might have joined the cast of the current staged reading of Salome (at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn) that stars Al Pacino, Marisa Tomei, and David Straithairn; Colin did an earlier production and says that it was a wonderful experience. She and Straithairn also worked together in Blue Car, scheduled for release next spring. In that film, Colin is once again a mom -- this time of a precocious teenager who gets involved with a much older man.

Next on her horizon is the Roundabout production of Peter Nichols's A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, in which she will join British stars Eddie Izzard and Victoria Hamilton. The production is scheduled to begin previews in mid-March. Time will tell whether Colin will let her sons see her in that play, but they will be in the audience of Temporary Help. "I want the kids to have a significant theater vocabulary," she explains. "I didn't let them see Unfaithful but I did let them see Speaking in Tongues. They didn't like it; they felt that all those mirrors made it nightmarish. I do want them to see what mommy does. Daddy does all the beautiful, time-tested stuff -- Guys & Dolls, The King and I. They can even cue him on his lines by now. They can't do that with me."

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