America's favorite Italian mother from Long Island -- who's really a Jewish gal born in St. Louis -- will headline a benefit Monday for one of Los Angeles' most innovative cultural contributors.
Doris Roberts, who plays Marie Barone on the popular sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond," will read the Grace Paley story "Goodbye and Good Luck" at a fundraiser for the Jewish Women's Theatre Project (JWTP) on April 23.
Roberts agreed to participate in the fundraising evening after being approached by JWTP advisory board member Ellen Sandler, a former co-executive producer for "Raymond."
"She is a great performer; she is Jewish, and proudly so, and she wanted to lend her celebrity to our group," Sandler told The Journal.
It was JWTP producing director Susan Merson's idea to use the Paley story, in which a woman reminisces about her long association with a Yiddish theater troupe.
Roberts, 75, first worked on Broadway in 1956 as the understudy to Shirley Booth in "Desk Set" and began her film career in the late 1960s.
Although Roberts has portrayed a number of Jewish characters over the years, including the kind neighbor Mrs. Kavarsky in the 1975 film "Hester Street" and Mrs. Van Daan in a TV production of "The Diary of Anne Frank," her most widely seen role before Marie Barone was probably that of secretary Mildred Krebs on the TV series "Remington Steele," which she played for four seasons in the mid-1980s.
She won an Emmy award in 1983 for her portrayal of a homeless woman in "St. Elsewhere" and has been nominated for her role as the overbearing but well-meaning Marie on "Raymond."
The benefit comes at a busy time for Roberts, who is also currently appearing in "The Vagina Monologues" at the Cañon Theater in Beverly Hills; the JWTP had to move the date of the fundraiser after Roberts was offered a three-week stint in the theater piece. "She never backed out," Lewis said. "We are grateful that she was able to give us her one night off."
The JWTP benefit will be held at the home of Maxwell Salter, the former mayor of Beverly Hills, and his wife, Janet, who is president of the Beverly Hills Theater Guild.
Sandler said the April 23 event, which includes a dessert reception, and Roberts' participation in the evening comprise "a way for us to reach out into the community and expand our audience."
And be prepared for some yummy treats if you go. "This is an event planned by and for Jewish women," Sandler said, "so of course, there'll be chocolate."
For information about the Jewish Women's Theatre Project fundraiser, 8 p.m. Monday, April 23, call (310) 398-7117.n