Mary-Louise Parker Has Always Been Mary-Louise Parker

Mary-Louise Parker Photo: Getty Images

On Monday, Mary-Louise Parker fans were treated to a front-page story on the actress in the Times "Arts" section. Campbell Robertson, reporting at one point on Ms. Parker's relationship with directors, noted that while the actress "thrives on collaboration," some directors can be "wildly stupid" (no surprise here); furthermore, in earlier days, the actress' "rebellious" attitude got her suspended from the North Carolina School of the Arts for "challenging her teachers."

At last night's after-party for the opening night of Sarah Ruhl's Dead Man's Cell Phone, in which Ms. Parker plays the lead (awesomely), Parker's peers leaped to her defense, even though we didn't think the profile said anything that outrageous. Her director, Anne Bogart, called the article "a waste of space": "I didn't find it very penetrating," she added. We wondered, though, if the piece accurately reflected what it's like to work with Ms. Parker. "She has strong ideas," Ms. Bogart said, "and so do I. But if I'm working with somebody without strong ideas, I feel like [I'm in] a vacuum." Co-star T. Ryder Smith felt Robertson "came down hard on her": "She's very witty and very sweet to be around." Sarah Ruhl also stood up for Parker: "I have just loved working with Mary-Louise, every second; she's such an artist. She's a really pure artist."

Of course, it could be that all of these people we've just mentioned were simply too terrified of Ms. Parker to say a word against her. As Robertson warns, Ms. Parker can be "rather intimidating," and we were indeed intimidated when we chatted with her. It was plainly obvious that the poor woman simply wanted to eat her plate of food and catch up with friends at her own party, not shoot the breeze with some reporter. But we had to know: What did she think of the Times piece? Ms. Parker turned to her publicist: "I don't know. What did I think about it?" "You liked it," the publicist cued. "I liked it, I guess," she said. Any stories about directors who'd made her do something ridiculous? "No one really makes me do stuff," she said. "I don't really play theater games. They have to pay me extra for me to play theater games." "But," we asked, "uh, what about before you were Mary-Louise Parker? Like, in high school?" Ms. Parker looked at us as if she didn't understand, and then blithely offered: "I've always been Mary-Louise Parker, since I was born." —Ben Kawaller