Melissa Leo as Toni Bernette stars in  HBO's "Treme."

Melissa Leo as Toni Bernette stars in HBO's "Treme." Credit: HBO Photo

Sunday night at Guild Hall's John Drew Theater, when Melissa Leo utters the word that gained such notoriety at this year's Oscars, she'll be reading it from a script.

Leo, as anyone living outside a cave knows, was bleeped during her Academy Award best-supporting actress acceptance speech. She played the mom of pugilist brothers in "The Fighter."

Now, for one night, the actress who spent childhood summers in the Hamptons is playing in a Naked Angels staged reading of "Side Man" in the role originated by Edie Falco, another actress with Long Island roots. Falco, who grew up in Northport, was acclaimed for playing the jazz musician's wife in Warren Leight's 1999 best-play Tony winner. Joining Leo is Zachary Quinto -- Spock in the 2009 "Star Trek" reboot. Much of the original Broadway cast returns, including Tony winner Frank Wood as the title character.

PROUD DAD Leo's father, Arnold, Springs resident and former secretary of the East Hampton Town Baymen's Association, says he's disappointed to miss the show due to a long-planned trip. But his daughter is staying with him beforehand.

It's only been a few weeks since Josh Gladstone, Guild Hall theater director/producer, learned that she would read the part. Two years ago, Naked Angels, a Manhattan company that develops new plays -- "Side Man" is one of its successes -- offered to deliver Matthew Broderick for a reading of "Stan the Man," but canceled at the last minute. (Broderick appears at Guild Hall tonight with Nathan Lane in "Celebrity Apprentice.")

"Naked Angels said, 'We owe you one,' " recalls Gladstone. He didn't hear back until this spring, when "Side Man" was offered. "But they weren't sure if Edie could do it," Gladstone says. Weeks passed. Still no Falco. But Gladstone kept the date open.

Last year, when Gladstone was producing "Equus" starring Alec Baldwin, Leo was offered a role in the Peter Shaffer play. "She politely declined, saying she was still shooting a movie," Gladstone says. The film was "The Fighter."

So it was a small-world happenstance when Naked Angels finally gave Gladstone the word that Leo would play Falco's role in "Side Man." Leo studied acting at SUNY Purchase in a group that included Stanley Tucci and, later, Edie Falco.

ACTRESS FOR LIFE Leo, born and raised in New York City, spent summers in Springs with her dad after her parents' divorce. " 'Jaws' was the first movie I remember seeing," she said in an online interview after her 2009 Oscar-nominated role in "Frozen River." Before "The Fighter," she was probably best-known as Det. Kay Howard on NBC's "Homicide: Life on the Street." She rejoined "Homicide" creator David Simon in HBO's "Treme" and starred opposite Kate Winslet in the recent "Mildred Pierce" miniseries, also on HBO.

"It's very rare that any of us in our industry go from one thing to another as much as I've been lucky to have done," she says.


WHAT "Side Man" staged reading

WHEN | WHERE 7 p.m. Sunday, Guild Hall's John Drew Theater, 158 Main St., East Hampton

INFO $30, $100 includes post-show reception; guildhall.org, 631-324-4050

Top Stories