Sharon Gless vividly recalls the moment she was sold on “A Round-Heeled Woman.” More than eight years ago, somebody slammed an article about its author, Berkeley’s Jane Juska, down on her desk and said: “If you had any balls you’d go after this!”
“Well, I read that article and I became fascinated with Juska [and the book],” Gless says, noting that she fought with a major Hollywood studio for an entire year before acquiring the rights to the project, which will mark its theatrical world premiere in The City next week.
Like the bestseller, the play — written by Jane Prowse — is a provocative tale about the real-life adventures of 66-year-old Juska, who boldly decides to place a personal ad in The New York Review of Books that reads: “Before I turn 67 … I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like.”
What follows is a series of eyebrow-raising escapades. Sex, heartbreak, humiliation and falling in love crawl under the creative covers, too.
“It’s about self-discovery and the things that come up and haunt Juska; things she has to deal with,” Gless says. “I thought it was the most courageous thing and I just admired her so much.”
Rounding out the cast are Stacy Ross, Ray Reinhart, Ian Scott McGregor, Anne Darragh and Stephen Macht, a memorable figure. He worked alongside Gless in the recurring role of David Keeler — Chris Cagney’s love interest on TV’s “Cagney and Lacey” for three seasons (1985-88).
Gless, who has kept busy in a number of standout television roles since “Cagney and Lacey” — on “Queer As Folk,” “Nip/Tuck” and “Burn Notice” — says she loves playing courageous women.
“I found this character complicated and interesting,” she says of Juska. “It wasn’t easy what she did, but she could not not do it.”
Knowing Gless, and how well she can plunge into such emotionally rich characters, the outing will most likely be far from tepid. We can thank Gless and her love of the craft for that.
“It’s fun,” she says of acting. “I don’t know how I do it but it’s the most fun thing I do. It’s as simple as that.”
IF YOU GO
A Round-Heeled Woman
Where: Z Space @ Theater Artaud, 450 Florida St., San Francisco
When: Previews Tuesday-Jan. 15; opens Jan. 16; 7 p.m. Tuesdays-Wednesdays; 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 5 p.m. Sundays; closes Feb. 7
Tickets: $20 to $50
Contact: (800) 838-3006, www.zspace.org