Annie Potts is definitely plowing new career territory with her current theatrical stint in Elliot Shoenman’s AfterMath, which debuted this month at L.A.’s Odyssey Theater. It’s a drama with comedy about the widow and two nearly-grown children of a suicide victim. Annie has been in on its development for the past couple of years.
“The writer, who has had a long and wonderful career as a comedy writer, lost his own father to suicide when he was 19,” she reports, speaking of Shoenman, whose credits include six years of “Home Improvement.” “He’s taken the bones of his experience and put it into a present-day situation. He’s changed the characters some. It’s really an anti-suicide piece; the psychological damage they leave in their wake is unbelievable. I think the extraordinary thing about the piece is how funny it is,” she adds. “You wouldn’t think that subject matter could possibly, possibly be funny, but there are a lot of laughs in it.”
Certainly the “Designing Women” veteran knows her way around a funny line — but AfterMath requires moments of silent despair as well, and her multi-layered work has been praised by critics. “My character is trying to put her life back together, trying to figure out why what happened, happened,” she says. She also says that Shoenman “actually used his own father’s suicide note in the play. It was just three lines: ‘I couldn’t take it anymore. Take care of the kids. Sell the car.'”
Annie notes, “I had never been part of developing something so long-range. It’s been great and one of the reasons it’s been great has been such a lovely, easy collaboration. Elliot Shoenman is such a prince.” Also, says the mother of three sons, “Having that empty nest made it really appealing to develop this piece. I had freedom to do that. Idle hands, devil’s hands — it was good to be involved in something.”
After her two younger sons moved out to their respective schools last year, “It was a little rough the first month or so,” she admits. However, she did soon come to appreciate “not having to get up at quarter to six to make eggs they don’t eat.”
As for what’s next? “I would love to take AfterMath other places. I’m having such a great time.” Broadway? “I’d settle for Off,” says the actress, who did a Broadway run in God of Carnage in ’09. “Stage was my first love, what I always wanted to do. The roles are much richer on stage for me right now. But I love it all, you know. I love every medium.”