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'Nurse Jackie': 10 reasons for theater people to fall in love

August 20, 2009 | 10:30 am

Nurse jackie “Nurse Jackie” joins that list of TV shows (“Law & Order” in all its iterations preeminent among them) with a penchant for offering gifted stage actors desirable cameos. But that’s not the only reason drama queens are buzzing about the new Showtime series.

Herewith, my top 10 reason reasons theater people shouldn’t miss an episode about the pill-popping RN, tartly brought to life by the incomparable Edie Falco:

10. Actors you might not know but whose Obie-winning talents can be appreciated even in minor roles are on hand. One week it's Christopher Evan Welch, the next it's Elizabeth Marvel -- and wasn't that the marvelous Ching Valdes-Aran I saw in an early episode?

Nurse jackie ii 9. A directing roster that includes such theatrically ripened veterans as actor Steve Buscemi and Scott Ellis, who has a passel of Tony nominations for his stagings of Broadway musicals and plays.

8. Not only is the majestic solo artist Anna Deavere Smith a regular, but she’s also given a similar-sounding surname of a famous theatrical auteur — Akalitus (as in JoAnne Akalaitis). 

7. Where else can you see legend Eli Wallach in a disturbingly real death scene?

6. Because you strongly suspect that Haaz Sleiman’s sassy male nurse Mohammed (a.k.a. Mo-Mo) has an original-cast recording collection that could put yours to shame. 

5. And you’re pretty sure you’ve seen Merritt Wever’s frazzled student nurse Zoey at the TKTS discount booth in Times Square. (Also, doesn’t she write under a medical pseudonym on Talkin’ Broadway’s online message board All That Chat?)

4. Got to love that Shakespearean ambivalence when it comes to sullied saints and all-too-human sinners.
3. Just noting that this Roman Catholic Manhattan hospital is an ideal setting for a surreal musical number. 

2. British stage luminary Eve Best as a flamboyant MD with a fetish for fancy restaurants and beyond-fabulous shoes. Need I say more?

1. The sublime realism of Edie Falco, who has got to be the most unaffected actress working on TV today. Not only does she openly embrace her 40-something sex appeal, but she also fearlessly revels in the most unflattering contradictions of her messed-up (thankfully even worse than us!) character.

-- Charles McNulty

Photos, from top: Edie Falco as "Nurse Jackie"; Falco in a scene with Eve Best. Credit: Ken Regan / Showtime