There are a few obvious things people know about Rita Moreno, mostly that she’s that rare show-biz creature in history to have nabbed an Oscar, a Tony, a Grammy and two Emmys.
But forget about all that. Because by the time the curtain falls on the revered actress’ new stage outing, “Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup,” audiences will likely discover a woman they hardly knew at all.
Written by Berkeley Repertory Theatre titan Tony Taccone and developed by Taccone and Moreno, “Life Without Makeup,” which begins previews at Berkeley Rep Friday, is admittedly a bold undertaking for Moreno; a show that promises to reveal more intimate accounts of her life — personal and professional.
Still, birthing the show didn’t always “feel” easy.
“I was very, very reluctant at first,” Moreno admits. “It did not appeal to me, but Tony kept pursuing me. I was very reluctant to divulge what I felt were very personal things, and if you are going to do your life story, you just have to commit to doing that.”
Essentially, she says, the endeavor is the story of a child who comes from a foreign country and “doesn’t speak the language and finds out pretty quickly that it’s not a good thing to be from that country … and tries to spend a good deal of her life being someone else.
“That’s really what the play is about — completely remaking your identity — and then trying to get it back.”
It isn’t quite “tell-all” — more like “tell … just enough” — but riveting all the same.
“You actually get to voice things about your soul that you don’t even think about all the time, that you deliberately and willfully put away,” she says.
Expect some dance numbers from Moreno and several male dancers, too, but prepare to be surprised by some of the costs that came with Moreno’s success — from “West Side Story” and beyond.
“I haven’t been given any real advice and I’ve made up my own,” she reveals of life lessons. “I’ve learned a couple of things in living. One, is that forgiveness is extremely important. You also have to become toughened without getting tough, In other words, resilient without being tough.
“But no matter how difficult life can get, you can really deal with it — that is really in my personal DNA,” she adds. “You get up, dust yourself and you keep walking; you keep moving ahead. No matter what kind of misery you are in, what physical condition you are in, it is really possible to go on.”
IF YOU GO
Presented by Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Where: Roda Theatre, 2025 Addison St., Berkeley
When: Previews Friday through Tuesday; 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays, 7 p.m. most Wednesdays, 2 or 8 p.m. Thursdays and Saturdays, 2 or 7 p.m. Sundays; closes Oct. 30
Tickets: $14.50 to $73
Contact: (510) 647-2949; berkeleyrep.org