Soaring with 'Angels'
Veteran actress Katie MacNichol leads Pasadena Playhouse revival of Noel Coward classic ‘Fallen Angels’
Katie MacNichol, now starring in Noel Coward’s “Fallen Angels” at the Pasadena Playhouse, says Shakespeare — not the movie and TV industries — lured her from her New York home and led her to Southern California.
Up until seven years ago, “The bulk of my acting career was in New York,” says the Maine native, who now lives in South Pasadena with her husband, actor Bruce Turk, 50, their 9-year-old daughter, Cecelia, and son Alexander, 7. After graduating from NYU, MacNichol said she began pounding the pavement looking for work.
“I waited tables and worked a billion jobs, starting and quitting, getting an opportunity and thinking that it’s the beginning of my career, and then two months later, going back to that job with my tail between my legs asking, ‘Can I pick up a few shifts?’” MacNichol recalls. “New York is such a theater town. I trained for the stage, and that’s what I love. I was based in New York, but I worked all over the country.
“New York is more of a hub for theater auditions than Los Angeles,” she continues. “Ten months out of the year, I was out of New York, but I always had an apartment in New York.”
MacNichol is perhaps best known to TV audiences for her roles on a 2005 “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” episode called “Beast,” in which she played a murderer, and the legal drama “The Practice,” which aired from 1997 to 2004 on ABC. In a 2002 three-episode story on that show, she played the lawyer of a man who believed he was Hannibal Lecter.
Her husband, Turk, is also a veteran character actor, most widely seen on the former CBS series “Numb3rs” and “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.”
Despite those TV appearances, however, it was a six-month contract with the San Diego Old Globe Theatre for Shakespeare that convinced her to move to Southern California. By this time, she and Turk were married. In all, MacNichol has done four seasons at the Old Globe; her husband has done six.
While Shakespeare might have attracted MacNichol to Southern California, it was the sophisticated humor of Noel Coward that brought her to the Pasadena Playhouse.
In “Fallen Angels,” directed by Art Manke, MacNichol plays a married woman named Jane, who has settled down after a wild youth. However, her respectability and her relationship with her best friend are threatened when a former lover sends her a note asking to see her.
Despite its farcical nature, “Fallen Angels” actually is of great importance to the Playhouse, offering another in a series of strong examples that the venerable institution has rebounded from earlier financial woes. Playhouse Artistic Director Sheldon Epps recently told the Weekly he had hoped to stage “Fallen Angels” for several years, and that it was actually on the Playhouse schedule when the theater temporarily closed due to bankruptcy proceedings a few years back.
Epps also believes the comedy provides a vital contrast to other upcoming plays, making the current season “tremendously eclectic.”
“In addition to being incredibly clever and witty, Coward’s plays also touch on some pretty deep human emotions,” Epps wrote in an email response to queries. “Jealousy, envy and love of course. [Coward] is often accused of being facile, but I think that this is only because people don’t look below the surface to the ‘heart of Coward’ that always drove his writing. And I think that just about any time is the right time for a play that is about romantic entanglements and girls behaving badly!”
Neither of MacNichol’s parents were actors, although both of her siblings are in the arts. Her brother, John, is a photographer/filmmaker and her sister, Susan, is a dancer.
Her father was a criminal defense attorney and served as a judge, performing on a different kind of stage. Her mother taught college-level business law and office management.
“I grew up hearing about the stories of all his cases,” MacNichol recalls of her dad. “During one Christmas break, I watched him for a week. A month later, I booked a job as a lawyer on ‘The Practice.’ That was my first big TV thing.” n
“Fallen Angels” runs through Feb. 24 at the Pasadena Playhouse, 39 El Molino Ave. Call (626) 356-7529 or visit pasadenaplayhouse.org.