Donna Rice's performance in Havel play at Va. theater is characterized as 'benign'

October 30, 1990|By Susan Baer | Susan Baer,Sun Staff Correspondent

ALEXANDRIA, VA. — She slyly removes her glasses, tosses aside her schoolgirl innocence and then, mustering all her charms and blondness, Donna Rice implores the older gentleman to let her love him, feed his starving soul, bring his "failing heart back to life."

But hold the tabloids. This is not Donna Rice, temptress.

This is Donna Rice, actress.

And this is not some flirty jeans commercial. This is serious.

Donna's doing Havel.

The former model, famed for her relationship with '88 presidential hopeful Gary Hart, has been studying theater in Northern Virginia for the last 1 1/2 years and now makes her theatrical debut in a community theater production of "Largo Desolato" by Czechoslovakian playwright and president Vaclav Havel.

"She's got a lot of potential as an actress," says Jill Kamp, Ms. Rice's acting teacher and the founder of the American Showcase Theatre, which is presenting the play.

With the exception of what one Showcase volunteer called a "leak" to the press about their celebrity performer, the theater has downplayed Ms. Rice's part -- a small one -- in the production. She's declined to give interviews and the program lists her as D. E. Rice, saying only that "D. E. Rice has appeared on television in "Miami Vice" and in national commercials. "Largo Desolato" marks Ms. Rice's stage debut."

"She's very sincere" about her theatrical pursuits, says Ms. Kamp. "She's never been interested in publicity or profit off of an unfortunate past. Others have made money. She's turned down millions."

Ms. Kamp says her former student is pursuing an acting career full time now, although she won't be appearing in either of the next two productions by the American Showcase Theatre, whose home is an intimate theater -- three rows of seats -- along a shopping strip in Alexandria.

So far, local reviews of the production have only mentioned Ms. Rice in passing, remarking on her identity rather than her performance. And most of the 30 or so audience members at Sunday night's performance seemed more interested in Havel's desolato than in Ms. Rice's debut.

Says Betty Wanamaker of Alexandria, searching for exactly the right word, "She was certainly . . . benign."

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