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Fast chat: Nina Arianda, Tony winner, back on Broadway

This is the problem for fiery young actresses like Nina Arianda. After exploding onstage -- as she did in "Venus in Love," playing a wacky chick-turned-seductive dominatrix (and winning the Tony Award for best actress in 2012) -- whaddya do for a follow-up?

Her answer: Join forces with Sam Rockwell and return to Broadway -- and the very theater where she made such a splash in "Venus" -- in Sam Shepard's tortured romance, "Fool for Love." The Manhattan Theatre Club production, directed by Daniel Aukin, opens at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on Oct. 8.

Arianda, 31, plays May, holed up in a seedy motel room near the Mojave Desert, fending off -- then at times instigating -- her old beau, Eddie (Rockwell), a Marlboro Man wannabe who has tracked her down and wants her back. That may or may not be a good thing. Probably not, given it's dark, doomed Shepard. Sitting nearby is The Old Man (Gordon Joseph Weiss), who slowly reveals some painful history -- he's May's father . . . or Eddie's . . . or both? Yeesh, no wonder they slam doors so hard.

Since winning the Tony, Arianda has appeared in films (Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris") and the recent, third season of NBC's "Hannibal," as Molly Graham, wife of serial-killer hunter Will (Hugh Dancy, her "Venus" co-star).

There's meaty stuff to talk about here, but I'm curious about something basic. Rockwell handles a lasso onstage -- and catches you in it as you try to get away. Has he ever missed?

No. He's never missed. We created that -- it's not in the script.

Really. It seems so symbolic of your push-me-pull-you relationship.

There's a lasso in the script. Just not that moment. We thought it might be fun to try . . . and it worked so we've kept it.

It's interesting because through much of the play it's the other way round -- you both argue, he's leaving, then you stop him. As the audience thinks, "Ohhh, not a good idea."

It's unbearable. But the amazing part of experiencing this show as an audience member is that you get to have that dialogue in your head. No, don't go. Stay. No, leave. Wait -- stay. That's what's sort of so beautiful about these two people -- and tragic. On a cellular level they can't live without each other. Sometimes when you fall in love with someone that's what happens -- things don't make sense without the other person. There's a loss of identity . . . or maybe a melding of identities, and even though that can be painful I think there's really something gorgeous about that.

People like to name-drop Shepard a lot -- "yeah, I'm really into Shepard" -- but his plays can be tough to get. What's the biggest misconception about him?

Hmm . . . Everyone talks about Shepard being so dark. And he is. But it's not out of hate that the painful stuff happens. It's out of love.

How's it been working with Sam Rockwell?

Just fantastic. Honestly. His work ethic and availability onstage is remarkable -- his willingness to play and explore. He creates such a level of safety for me so I feel comfortable to explore onstage. It's imperative to know the other person is there for you.

I feel like Hollywood doesn't know what to do with him. He's good-looking and can play the leading man, but he's so funny -- he can play oddball character roles. And Hollywood likes to put actors in one box.

He can do anything. And he takes care of the characters he plays. So as an audience member, you feel taken care of, too.

What do you mean?

The care and respect for his character radiates off of him. The effort he makes to play it honestly. We feel it onstage and I think people in the audience can feel it, too. And Sam started in theater, so being onstage is really natural for him.

Switching gears a moment -- I'm dying to know about your upcoming Meryl Streep movie about Florence Foster Jenkins. What a fascinating, hilarious figure.

I'm so excited a movie is being made about her. Honestly, I can't wait to see it.

Did you work with Streep?

We're together in several scenes. I don't think it really hit me at the time, because it's so huge. I've never seen someone so dedicated, hardworking and professional.

Jenkins was this kooky socialite a century ago who used to sing in public -- and she was terrible, right? Who do you play?

I'm a newly married ex-chorus girl, and my husband's eager to make a splash in high society. Needless to say, my character doesn't fit in, and so she causes a little bit of trouble.

You, stirring up trouble -- really?

Yeah. [She chuckles.] Imagine that . . .

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