Your mentioning Amy Madigan reminded me of Lindsay Crouse (they played sisters in Places in the Heart) -- another good actor with a look that she can control at will (she seems to be trying to glam herself up a bit these days), but which can be hard and challenging when she wants.

Laurie Metcalf... I guess my Chicago roots are showing, as she is one of the original Steppenwolf Theater members, alongside John Malkovich, Gary Sinise, et al. I saw her often there in the early 80s, always looking different (she's one of the true chameleons, like Miranda Richardson) and always electrifying. Perhaps her most recognizable credit is as Roseanne's sister on her long-running sitcom -- an unexpected turn for the career of someone I thought of as a Serious Actress to take, but I'm sure it's set her up financially for life and paid for her kids' college education in advance. She's now playing sidekick to Norm MacDonald on his show Norum, which I've never watched. I see that the IMDb lists 31 credits for her -- hard to say which one you might know, though a lot of people seem to remember her big line as the cranky sister-in-law in Desperately Seeking Susan ("For God's sake, take a Valium like a normal person!").

For other Barbara Paul casting, I always saw Dr. Snooks in Your Eyelids... as Tyne Daly. I'd want Seth Green for Gus, and Jennifer Aniston as Megan. This book always seemed ready-made for the film medium to me, partly because of what Barbara describes a few pages away as its amiability. I see it as a 2-hour tvmovie, followed by a weekly hourlong series showing us the further adventures of the same characters. All filmed on location in Pittsburgh, of course.