Theatre: Molly and mid-life

House of Cards’ star in town to play lead in CanStage’s Harper Regan

It’s one of those ridiculously cold days in February, and the first question to Molly Parker is one of timing and her decision to head back to Canada in the middle of winter to take the stage for the first time in18 years.

“It’s crazy,” she says. “It’s truly shocking after living in California for 15 years. I mean, I’m from the West Coast, so this was never my weather.” But despite the frigid climes, Parker, was compelled to sign on for the new Canadian Stage production of Harper Regan by U.K. playwright Simon Stephens.

When Parker read the script, she couldn’t stop thinking about it for days and agreed to take on the role to find out why.

“That’s basically why I’m here.,” she says, as we chat at the Berkeley Street Theatre before rehearsals. “This woman seemed so unremarkable yet was such a mystery that it seemed like a worthwhile thing to spend a few months discovering.”

The play tells the story of middle-aged Harper Regan who reaches a breaking point and turns her back on her family and her responsibilities and goes on a journey, both literally to visit her dying father and figuratively as a way of finding herself in the process aided by a number of strange encounters along the way.

“This play is deceiving,” Parker explains. “It feels like this woman is on a journey and she discovers herself and all that, but the underpinnings of the story is this sort of Greek tragedy.”

This is all new to Parker. She acted in just one play in Vancouver 18 years ago, when she was first starting out. Instead she made a name for herself with impressive turns in a series of independent films, followed by features and TV work.

Currently, she portrays Jackie Sharp on House of Cards. A role she relishes with obvious glee.

“I love that job. It is so fun,” she says. “That woman is so wonderful to play because she is powerful, sexual, intelligent, strong and yet completely flawed.”

For Parker, Jackie Sharp and Harper Regan are two additional characters in a series of compelling and complex roles that make Parker such a fascinating actor.

Harper Regan runs at the Bluma Appel Theatre, March 1-22.