Daytime drama queen Susan Lucci is best known for stirring up trouble as Erica Kane on ABC’s “All My Children.” But the actress who grew up in Garden City relishes the chance to show her flair for stage comedy, something she'll do Oct. 27 during a performance of "Celebrity Autobiography" at Staller Center in Stony Brook.
“For one thing, it’s live theater, and that’s always the most fun for actors,” says Lucci, who will be reading aloud from unintentionally funny celebrity memoirs in an ensemble cast that also includes "Sex and the City" actor-comedian Mario Cantone, "Feud" star Jackie Hoffman and former "Saturday Night Live" writer Alan Zweibel. “And it’s comedy, and I enjoy that very much,” Lucci says in a telephone interview.
Comedy or drama, Lucci says her acting preparation doesn’t vary. “I read the part and try to get into the character and get into their heads and just let it rip,” she says. In three previous "Celebrity Autobiography" productions she’s found mirth in tell-alls by Ivana Trump and Kim Kardashian.
The show was created by Eugene Pack and Dayle Reyfel, who are also in the cast. It was originally conceived by Pack, an avid consumer of star autobiographies, and won critical raves and a Drama Desk Award during its 10-year Off-Broadway run.
Every edition of the road show is different, updated with newly published autobiographies. “Sometimes celebrities write multiple books. Justin Bieber already has two,” Pack says.
“Usually, there is unintentional comic gold in the prologue, which is often overly dramatic,” he adds. “Later in the book when the writer runs out of content, they start listing their favorite foods, what’s in their fridge and the way they get dressed.”
While a set piece like “Suzanne Somers' early poetry” offers obvious comic potential, much of the show’s humor plays off the public’s obsession with celebrities' “eating, working, sleeping [and] mating habits,” says Hoffman, who went to high school in Great Neck. “ ‘Celebrity Autobiography’ finds the hubris, ego and chutzpah that celebrities have when they talk about themselves.”
A recurring routine centers on the long-ago Liz Taylor, Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds love triangle, with actors reading excerpts in counterpoint from each of the trio’s autobiographies.
Long Islanders may also come in for spoofing albeit in their own words, such as Malverne High School graduate and "Taxi" alum Tony Danza.
“Reading Marilu Henner's memoir, alongside [Henner’s sometime lover] Tony Danza was a highlight for me,” Reyfel says of a recent performance. “The audience went wild with applause and laughter every time I simply said, ‘Tony.’ "
Fair warning: If you’re looking for celebrity-bashing snark, you won’t find it in these star-quoting pages.
“It’s not a mean-spirited show about impersonations," Pack says, "it’s about capturing the essence of the person.”
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m., Oct. 27, Staller Center for the Arts, 100 Nichols Rd., Stony Brook
INFO $48; 631-632-2787, stallercenter.com