Angelica Page is the daughter of two major and volatile actors, Rip Torn and Geraldine Page, and last year she adopted her mother’s last name—with her father’s full support and blessing. “No one in my family was carrying on her name,” Page says. “There are lots of folks using my dad’s last name. I just wanted to honor her and carry on her torch.” Page is celebrating her mother, who died in 1987, in both a forthcoming biography and a new stage show, Turning Page, which was workshopped at the Actors Studio and has a preliminary run at The Cherry Lane Theatre (through Oct 28). “I had been avoiding writing a book about her and the play came out of that process,” Page says. “Of not knowing where to begin, of being resistant to my memories. A psychic in London suggested I try channeling my mother and let her speak to me, which is the fulcrum we use to enter the world of the play. I decided last year to write the play on my mother’s birthday, November 22.”
I first saw Page in the Broadway production of Side Man, when she was working under her birth name, Angelica Torn, and she had a moment when her character got intensely angry that put me very much in mind of the way her mother would chew up and spit out her words in films like Toys in the Attic (1963) and Interiors (1978). Page is a lifelong member of the Actors Studio and has appeared in many movies and plays, most notably Edge, her one-woman show as Sylvia Plath, which many theater people still speak about in hushed tones. Her parents met while acting together in Tennessee Williams’s Sweet Bird of Youth on stage, and the doorbell on their New York townhouse read “Torn Page” for many years. (Angelica and her brother Tony Torn are well known in New York for running a kind of salon out of that townhouse for theater artists, where work can be offered up and tried out.)
“Turning Page is my stream of consciousness as I explore the key experiences with my mother that brought me to who I am today as a human and as an artist,” Page says. In the promo video for the play, Page takes on her mother’s look as Alexandra Del Lago in the film version of Sweet Bird of Youth (1962), but she keeps impersonation to a minimum. “I only visit brief scenes or dialogue from certain plays my mother did,” Page says. “I portray her as certain characters like Del Lago as she speaks in her own voice about moments dealing with particular productions like Sweet Bird of Youth.” Page hopes that her audience can take away from the play “a cherishing of the truly special gifts in life we all receive. Life is either filled with celebration or grievance. It’s up to us to choose.”
Angelica’s play is a deeply moving memoir.