Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Claudia Shear

Evening At The Talk House – Don’t Look Now, But…


You’re invited to a soiree at The Talk House – think Players Club – a ten year reunion of those originally involved with the play Midnight in the Clearing With Moon and Stars. Though critically unsuccessful, the production was a good experience for all involved. What appears to be colored water and penny candy are offered on trays. (When the play formally begins, party-goers avail themselves of a veritable cornucopia of tantalizing appetizers. You’ll salivate.) The company mingles with entering audience. Feel free to talk to the actors.

Catch-up conversation sounds like anything one might hear at theater hang-outs like Bar Centrale – the decline of real craft, its ersatz replacement, memories of what brought this group together, and allusions to what each is doing now. Much of this is banal. You might find yourself drifting off. Intermittent references to such as a play called The Elephant Does Forget with a “memorable dialysis scene” attempt to keep this part of the scenario from flatlining.


Matthew Broderick, Annapurna Sriram, Michael Tucker, John Epperson

Robert (Matthew Broderick), the playwright, has moved on to a television series called Tony and Company he could author with one hand behind his back. His star, Tom (Larry Pine), also the lead in Midnight, disparages the show. (Television is  primary entertainment.) Bill (Michael Tucker) has morphed into a discouraged agent. Ted (John Epperson – Lypsinka in other incarnation) now writes advertising – jingles, we presume – as he intermittently tickles the corner ivories. Costumer, Annette (playwright/actress Claudia Shear), struggles as a bespoke seamstress.

Running Talk House is the palpably maternal Nellie (Jill Eikenberry), who one infers was once an actress, and young Jane (Annapurna Sriram) who left to try her luck on the boards, but returned tail between her legs. Our last character is Dick (Wallace Shawn) now an alcoholic, a “pitiful hanger-on” who’s been charitably taken in by the club, but seems beyond repair.


Michael Tucker, Claudia Shear, Larry Pine, Jill Eikenberry

Time passes slowly, though in amiable enough company. When dystopia enters on cat feet one barely notices at first. Desperate for incomes, several attendees are unquestioningly committing government sanctioned murder = “targeting” on the side. Shrug. Only Bill seems to find anything immoral or unusual in this ordinarily undiscussed, status quo, and his objections pass.

We’re reminded, as if everyday news were insufficient, that a fascist government works from lists, that it’s vigilant of those who might do “harm”, i.e. anyone who might object to singular rule, anyone different; that horrific “methods” are often ignored or rationalized as people acclimate. It’s them or us. Who is who?

Unfortunately, Shawn has a tendency to overwrite. The pith is both buried by endless uninteresting chat and dissipated by the number of sketched characters involved. Though Robert briefly shows unexpectedly conservative colors (Broderick might’ve credibly made a feast of this were he given more to reveal) and Jane is more angry at her lack of professional success than that to which she’s been reduced, most of those present are not very engaging. Annette, partly due to the wonderful Shear and Nellie to Eikenberry’s authenticity, are sympathetic.


Matthew Broderick, Annapurna Sriram

Undoubtedly meant to show the insidious nature of grim historical past and conceivably hovering future, the end result evokes nothing more than a shudder of recognition. While one applauds the playwright’s alert, it’s difficult not to be disappointed with its minimal effect.

There’s not a weak link in this excellent, iconoclastic cast which includes writers and performers one might otherwise never see on the same stage.

Scott Elliott directs with naturalness and imagination. People drift from Derek McLane’s well defined parlor set to an unseen kitchen area and back, helping us focus on those who remain. Everyone seems credible and comfortable. Stage business is fine. Use of music is appealing.

Photos by Monique Carboni
Opening: John Epperson, Matthew Broderick, Jill Eikenberry, Annapurna Sriram, Larry Pine, Claudia Shear

The New Group presents
Evening At The Talk House by Wallace Shawn
Directed by Scott Elliott
The Pershing Square Signature Center
480 West 42nd Street
Through March 12, 2017

Tuck Everlasting


Would you want to live forever as you are? Think about losing everyone you love over decades as well as hiding in order not to be feared and ostracized. (In an update, one might easily be locked in a Pentagon lab.) Now imagine being given that choice as a curious, imaginative, over-protected 11 year-old child. In 1893.

The Tuck Family – pa, Angus (the thoroughly appealing Michael Park), ma, Mae (Carolee Carmello whose presence is warm, but whose voice is abrasive), older son, Miles (Robert Lenzi), and younger son, Jesse (a lively, sympathetic Andrew Keenan-Bolger) were homesteading 100 years ago, when they all drank from an innocuous spring and became immortal. Miles and Jesse leave home on ten- year walkabouts, but Angus and Mae stick, wary and secluded. Still, the family remains close. Life goes on. And on. But this isn’t really about the Tucks.


Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Robert Lenzi, Carolee Carmello, Sarah Charles Lewis

Winnie Foster (newcomer, Sarah Charles Lewis), lives with her mother (a credible Valerie Wright) and grandmother (Pippa Pearthree with a surprisingly artificial old age accent), at the edge of woods which have been owned by her family for generations. Mrs. Foster remains in widow’s weeds after almost a year and confines her restless daughter to the house. When a fair comes to town, the usually obedient child can stand it no longer and runs off to have some fun.

Crossing the forest, Winnie encounters Jesse on his way home after a lengthy absence, and sees him drink from the spring. What could be more welcome than fresh water? She moves towards it. Jesse distracts her suggesting they climb an enormous tree – perspective, of course, affecting everything. Neither has ever really had a friend.


Sarah Charles Lewis, Andrew Keenan-Bolger

Set Designer Walt Spanger’s tree is comprised of what appear to be curved, undulating plywood boards hung with enormous clumps of like-colored leaves. It’s marvelous. The Foster’s Victorian door front, the Tuck’s Joseph-Cornell-meets-Louise-Nevelson home, and night stars are also terrific. Lighting Designer Kenneth Posner does an excellent job of adding magic to a production that unfortunately has little of it elsewhere.

Mae comes looking for her sons and finds Miles, whereupon Jesse drops from the tree. Before he can explain, Winnie follows. Anyone knowing about their existence is a threat. An untrustworthy child can only be more so. They throw a coat over her head and take her home. Angus is delighted they have a dinner guest. Mae is worried. Miles is furious. Jesse says “Can we keep her?”

Meanwhile, Constable Joe (Fred Applegate) and his nerdy son/deputy Hugo (Michael Wartella) search for Winnie. I don’t remember these characters from the book, but here they seem given too much stage time.


Carolee Carmello and Michael Park

Jesse passes for 17, but is actually 103. There are clues in the way the Tucks react and in what they say. The story comes out. Angus and Mae soften towards the girl. Miles reveals a secret. Still, prudence dictates that Winnie, promising never to tell, will be escorted home the next day. Not. Reveling in company with whom he can share adventures, Jesse takes Winnie to the fair.

Costume Designer Gregg Barnes manifests artistic, multi-pattern thespian apparel, period clothing for towns people just fanciful enough not to distract, and perfectly conceived attire for the “Man in the Yellow Suit.” The concept of dressing the show’s EVER-present, disconnected dancers (really, one begins to want to brush them away like mosquitoes) as wood nymphs or something from a Renaissance fair, however, is a real mistake. The visual is a constant disconnect.

water tower

Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Sarah Charles Lewis

A desire to win something for Winnie provokes Jesse into volunteering to have his age guessed by the yellow-clad owner of the fair. Winnie tries unsuccessfully to warn her friend. The Man in the Yellow Suit (Terrance Mann) had been sniffing around her house asking questions about a spring and an old family. He knows. The usually entertaining Mr. Mann appears trapped in a role he now regrets. There’s little amusement in his portrayal.

The “youngsters” run off too late, are followed and overheard. The Man in the Yellow Suit has ambitions of world dominion. He’ll blackmail Winnie’s mother in exchange for a deed to the woods. Mrs. Foster, Winnie, and the Tucks have major decisions to make. Winnie’s is whether to stay with the Tucks, secretly agree to join them later, or live her life. The Tucks must decide whether to finally pull up roots. Only two of these decisions depend on The Man in the Yellow Suit.


Terrance Mann

Sarah Charles Lewis makes a fine Winnie in her Broadway debut. The young actress embodies innocence, joy, spunk, confusion, and an accessibility that will serve her career.

Having just written a review of another new musical with lackluster songs, I regretfully feel this one is even less successful. Lyrics sound like heavy handed and/or cliché prose unwillingly submitting to music which itself arrives homogenized folk. Except for a ballet epilogue, there’s no fantasy, no purity, no poetry.

Being an otherwise tremendous fan of Director/Choreographer Casey Nicholaw, I can’t imagine what he was thinking!

Photos by Joan Marcus
Opening: Sarah Charles Lewis

Tuck Everlasting
Based on the book ‘Tuck Everlasting’ by Natalie Babbitt
Book by Claudia Shear & Tom Federle
Music by Chris Miller
Lyrics by Nathan Tysen
Directed by Casey Nicholaw
Broadhurst Theatre
235 West 44th Street