Tracee Chimo: Broadway Funny Girl

Tracee Chimo: Broadway Funny Girl


Tracee Chimo (©Jon Holloway)

Making a big noise on Broadway in Michael Frayn’s farce “Noises Off” is Tracee Chimo. She’s the one on the phone in the cast photo. The pained look on her face is perfectly understandable and there for a reason.

Chimo plays Poppy Norton-Taylor, assistant stage manager of the play-within-the-play in which nothing goes right, either onstage or backstage. The name of the play-within-the-play should give you some idea of the kind of kick-about, knees-up farce we’re dealing with in the latest Roundabout Theatre production. It’s called “Nothing On.”

“Poppy is a girl who’s actually, I think, in quite a bit of pain,” the actress confessed on her day off before rehearsals for “Noises Off” started in late October  (Previews began Dec. 17 for a Jan. 14 opening night at the American Airlines Theatre.)

“I think she’s from a wealthy family because she’s got three names, which says to me she’s probably a bit posh,” Chimo continued. “But she’s left her family to pursue the theater. She loves what she does. I think she prides herself on being very good at doing what she does. I think she’s actually quite good at her job, but it’s next to impossible to be good at your job when you’re surrounded by absolute insanity, which is her situation. She’s a girl who’s in love. She’s young, she’s willing to learn and do anything to move forward and be successful. I think she gets her heart deeply broken and is underestimated and misunderstood. It’s an exciting character to play because you never know what kind of strength she may come out with by the end of the play.”

Has Chimo ever experienced antics like those portrayed in “Noises Off”?

Yes. Recently. “It was a very painful expereince and it took some time to heal from it.”

In spite of some discreet prodding, Chimo remained mum as to the name of the project.

“I would just keep it that I have had that expereince. I don’t want to throw anybody under the bus. You never know.”

What is known—and widely so—is that Chimo has achieved almost mythic status in New York theater, essaying a wide variety of roles, many in Roundabout shows on and off the Great White Way, most notably in “Bad Jews,” playwright Joshua Harmon’s fiercely dramatic and fiercely funny Off-Broadway play several seasons ago. As wild-haired and opinionated Daphna Feygenbaum, Chimo was the antithesis of the daintier English rose named Poppy. And that’s how Chimo likes it.

“I tend to pick things that will push me to the next layer of what I’d like my career to be. I’m constantly trying to get out of my comfort zone. I constantly work toward not being pigeonholed.”

Versatility has led her to a recurring role as Neri Feldman on “Orange Is the New Black.” And her dream role would be in a revival of “Uncommon Women and Others,” her favorite Wendy Wasserstein play, which she is actively pursuing.

Another dream part would be Lady Macbeth in the “Scottish Play.” She owned up to not having done Shakespeare yet. But when she does tackle the Bard, she wants it to be as Lady M. And since for every Lady M there has to be a Lord M, who might he be?

“I think Tom Hiddleston would be a good Macbeth,” she offered. “I want to say Mark Rylance, but he might be on the older side for Macbeth.” Still: “I would jump at the opportunity to work with Mark Rylance.”

And don’t be surprised if she doesn’t. There are two things to know about Tracee Chimo.

First, she has an unfailing sense of what roles are right for her. After all, she turned down Martin Scorsese’s film “The Wolf of Wall Street” to do “Bad Jews.” “For practically no money,” she said, adding “but it was worth it. I didn’t like the female parts in that movie.”

And second, offstage, she is totally grounded. Shortly before our conversation, she had traveled to London, Toronto and Atlanta. Back in New York, she was in an Actors Fund benefit the night before. And after we hung up, she was running off to Long Island to babysit her cousin’s baby.

A star and a babysitter: That’s Tracee Chimo.

“Noises Off,” American Airlines Theatre, 227 W. 42nd St., btw Seventh & Eighth aves., 212.719.1300, www.roundabouttheatre.org

An actress is often known by the company she keeps. And in “Noises Off,” Tracee Chimo is in very good (and funny) company. Pictured (left to right): Daniel Davis, Jeremy Shamos, David Furr, Andrea Martin, Rob McClure (jumping), Campbell Scott, Megan Hilty (on carpet), Chimo (on phone) and Kate Jennings Grant. (Jenny Anderson, 2015)