Actress Mia Dillon is not easy to type-cast. Her versatility easily allows her to go from playing Tennessee Williams’ ditzy flibbertigibbet Big Mama, as she did opposite her husband Keir Dullea in a recent production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” to being the stern, pragmatic hausfrau translator for her famous literary husband in Noël Coward’s “A Song at Twilight” on stage through May 17 at the Westport Country Playhouse.
Described as “an exquisite battle of wits, exploring the nature of passion, the cruelty of love and the price of hidden secrets,” the play, directed by Playhouse Artistic Director Mark Lamos, also stars Brian Murray.
“I had trouble finding an agent to represent me when I started my acting career,” Dillon said in a telephone interview from her Fairfield County home, “because they all said they couldn’t figure out what type I was.”
Finally cast as the young woman in “Da,” Dillon had her first Broadway outing, in a production which won four Tony Awards. Her casting problems were resolved when it became apparent that she could play practically any role, as she has in such diverse productions as “Our Town,” “Hay Fever” “The Money Pit,” “Crimes of the Heart” (for which she won a Tony nomination) and television’s “The Cosby Show" and “Law and Order.”
“I love to disappear in a role,” she said, “I love it when people say, ‘I didn’t recognize you.’ Acting allows me to live many different lifetimes.”
Dillon discovered her acting chops at age ten when she was cast in a minor role in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” “When it was time to decide where the invisible clothes should be,” she recalls, “another little girl in the play said, ‘They belong here.’ And I said, ‘No, they belong over here.’ That got a big laugh from the audience, which amazed me and I loved it.
“Later I was taken to see ‘The Sound of Music’ and I thought I could do that. So when my local high school was putting on that show, I badgered my mother and my teacher until I got a role.”
Her talent and versatility have led her into all media -- stage, film and television -- but her favorite roles are those she acts opposite husband Dullea (best known for “David and Lisa,” “Butterflies Are Free” and “2001: A Space Odyssey”). “We love working together and giving each other lines,” she said, “but there are certain plays we wouldn’t want to do together like ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ Even good friends have broken up doing that play. Although two weeks after we were married, we did ‘Deathtrap’ in which he had to kill me on stage every night, and that worked out.”
As for her current role in “A Song at Twilight,” she thinks Playhouse audiences should know that this is not a typical Noël Coward play. “It is quite relevant to today,” she said. “It is still difficult for some men to come out as gay; there are still ramifications and a stigma attached to ‘the love that dare not speak its name.’ Although the younger generation is more accepting, there is still discrimination."
-- Gloria Sugarman
April 21, 2014