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.
The main reason to see this reworked 2013 play is, if curious, Uma Thurman. This is not to say the actress is brilliant, or that veterans Josh Lucas and Blair Brown don’t outshine her, but rather that she rises admirably to her first stage appearance and is, as always, a pleasure to look at. It can’t hurt that Chloe fits the succession of confident, calculating beauties with which Thurman established her reputation. This particular role might’ve been written for her; the character’s awareness of power and sexuality is pervasive.
Una Thurman, Blair Brown, Phillipa Soo
Chloe (Uma Thurman) is the Washington, D.C. leisure class wife of Tom (the always excellent Josh Lucas), a successful tax lawyer with seemingly sudden aspirations towards judgeship on the court of appeals. Though most of his clients are Republicans, Tom and Chloe remain quietly liberal. They have – spoiler alert – an open marriage.
Peter, a British banker friend of the couple is Chloe’s latest besotted lover. The completely credible Marton Csokas manages to make jealous apoplexy touching. We see Chloe’s boredom. Bristling at Peter’s increasing possessiveness, she’s withdrawing. Despite successive dalliances, it’s clear Chloe and Tom love and understand one another. His learning about Peter hardly ruffles conversation.
Uma Thurman, Blair Brown
A second affair is kept secret for several reasons, not the least of which is plot device. Later, it becomes instrumental in securing what the couple respectively desires most – mid life purpose, Chloe’s in her mate’s career, his, ostensibly in affecting social justice (one wonders about his commitment). To the author’s credit, there are several well placed surprises.
Also enmeshed in Tom and Chloe’s ambitions are Republican politico/hostess Jeanette (Blair Brown), incipient head of the Federal Reserve and her Harvard Law educated daughter Rebecca (a sympathetic Phillipa Soo), who has her own Democratic, governmental trajectory. Brown has a helluva time with her portrayal of the kind of old school conservative dame who’s under the delusion that our president will eventually tow party line. A two-handed dramatic scene towards the end of the play is a highpoint.
Phillipa Soo, Uma Thurman
Willimon has written a small piece featuring mechanisms of control in politics as usual. Derogatory jokes about our so-called government could be better integrated, but then this isn’t about Democrats vs Republicans.
Director Pam McKinnon keeps her characters naturally moving and Thurman seductive lolling around Derek McLane’s tasteful, upper crust Set. Actors listen; timing is good.
Jane Greenwood’s Costumes flatter the men more than Thurman, though everything looks character specific.
Photos by Matthew Murphy Opening: Uma Thurman, Josh Lucas, Marton Csokas
The Parisian Woman by Beau Willimon Directed by Pam McKinnon Hudson Theatre 141 West 44th Street
“Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.”
Chapter 2, Verse 15 of the Song of Solomon in the King James version of the Bible
Lillian Hellman’s 1939 play, ostensibly drawing characters from her own family, has been a theater staple since its first outing. In New York, the role of Regina which originated with Talullah Bankhead has been played by such as Anne Bancroft and Elizabeth Taylor while Margaret Leighton, Maureen Sullivan, and Frances Conroy have counted among those featured as Birdie. This Manhattan Theatre Club production allows its leading ladies to play Regina and Birdie in repertory. One can choose whom to see in which role.
Laura Linney, Darren Goldstein
Keeping with 1900s Southern tradition, brothers Oscar (Darren Goldstein) and Ben Hubbard (a well grounded Michael McKean) inherited their father’s cotton business to the chagrin of sister Regina (Laura Linney). The two men are pompously nouveau riche, while she has to make due with being supported in less than the style to which she aspires by manipulated husband Horace Giddens (completely credible Richard Thomas), currently in a sanatorium.
Also enmeshed is Oscar’s sweet, alcoholic wife Birdie (Cynthia Nixon), married for inheritance and ancestry, so cowed she refers to herself as a “ninny,” his lazy, doltish son Leo (Michael Benz) superfluously employed by the bank, and Regina’s overprotected daughter Alexandra (Francesca Carpanini), a daddy’s girl who the Hubbards plan to marry off to Leo.
A business opportunity to enlarge holdings and walk off with sizeable annuity emerges with the potential collaboration of northerner Mr. Marshall (David Alford – appealingly decorous). While Oscar and Ben have ready funds, Regina must secure her investment from the estranged husband she hasn’t even visited for five months. Feigning affection, this latter day Lucrezia Borgia immediately sends Alexandra to fetch the invalid. Horace, however, despite or perhaps because he’s learned his prognosis is fatal, is no longer the patsy she remembers. How will the Hubbard brothers keep this windfall in the family? How will Regina secure her own ambitious future? Each acts for him/her self.
Richard Thomas, Michael McKean, Darren Goldstein, Michael Benz
Laura Linney’s Regina makes southern gentility organic without losing the character’s edge. Imperiousness fits like a bespoke glove, avarice is palpable. So much emotion is internalized, however, one misses flashes – a moment of sheer hatred during blazing discourse with Horace, a moment of fear when at last Alexandra denies her.
Cynthia Nixon inhabits Birdie from the moment she enthusiastically flutters onstage. She’s vulnerable, wary, resigned, hopeful, hurt and desperate. Every warble in her voice and skittery move embodies Birdie. We can practically feel the tightness in her chest. All together splendid.
Francesca Carpanini, Richard Thomas
Director Daniel Sullivan excels at this kind of solid drama. His characters exist naturally and, for the most part, distinctively. Oscar is fidgety, Ben blustery and overconfident, Regina steely and graceful, Birdie like a trapped rabbit. Leo and Alexandra could use some individual attributes. Confrontations between Oscar and Birdie are superb as are moments of those between Regina and Horace. The stage is well and attractively used.
Unless I missed something, there’s an omission: Horace knocks over his medicine before heading for the stairs. We never see it observed, questioned, or cleaned up. There are paramount reasons for all three.
Scott Pask’s gracious turn of the century mansion is apt environs for this play. The ceiling is splendid. Jane Greenwood’s Costumes are flattering and character appropriate. Accents, it should be noted, sound authentic.
Also featuring Caroline Stefanie Clay as Addie and Charles Turner as Cal- the Giddins’ servants
Photos by Joan Marcus Opening: Laura Linney, Cynthia Nixon
Long Day’s Journey is an exhausting theatrical experience. Not just for its length (three and three-quarter hours which, in this incarnation, represent the single, eruptive day), but because we’re inextricably drawn into the Tyrone’s almost unremittingly angry, guilt ridden, depressive, wounding, alcohol and morphine riddled world. That O’Neill manages to portray an undercurrent of deep love and inject unexpected humor is a testament to his mastery of the medium; literary quotes are immensely apt. The show is a glass mountain for both actors and the director, its scaling always something of a miracle.
James and Mary O’Neill, Eugene’s parents
Semi-autobiographical, the play must have be an exorcism for its author. Though completed in the early 1940s, he sealed the work in a Random House vault with stipulation it not be opened till 25 years after his death. Third wife Carlotta Monterey disinterred the play and offered its publication to benefit Yale University.
John Gallagher, Jr. and Jessica Lange
Parallels to O’Neill’s life include the summer cottage, its location, and the Irish American family it concerns. Characters are the ages they would have been in 1912. The playwright’s father, James O’Neill, was, in fact, an actor who played with Edwin Booth and was criticized for riding the wave of commercial success repeating his role as The Count of Mont Cristo for years. His mother, Mary, did attend a Midwest Catholic school. Eugene, like Edmund here, spent time at sea, wrote for a newspaper, stayed in a sanatorium for tuberculosis and suffered from depression and alcoholism his entire life. Jamie, who keeps his brother’s name in the play, died of alcoholism before it was written.
John Gallagher, Jr. and Michael Shannon
Tom Pye’s spare, evocative Set (emphasis on the stairs and the porch are particularly effective), Natasha Katz’s haunting Lighting Design, and Clive Goodwin’s evocative Sound Design create a ghostly, expectant atmosphere before we hear a word. Cosymes by Jane Greenwood fit each character like a glove.
Gabriel Bryne manifests James Tyrone’s volatility, stubbornness, ego, and monstrous love with grave and surety. That which is kingly makes it easy to imagine James on stage. Bryne’s natural accent and Irish roots add color and, one can’t help but conjecture, pith.
Michael Shannon (Jamie) solidly delivers, but could use a touch of familial poetry in inflection and gesture to feel more a Tyrone. His drunk scene, however, is a gorgeous model of plastered restraint and darkly comic physical acting.
John Gallagher Jr. (Edmund) sustains less truth than his fellows. The actor does bring painful impatience and vulnerability to the role.
Let us now praise Jessica Lange who has here written the dictionary on various forms of nuanced, nervous laughter, fluttering hands, darting eyes, and erratic vocal change. The actress embodies power, desperation, and fragility with equal conviction as mother, wife, and tender young woman. Perhaps not since her role as Frances Farmer in the 1982 biopic has Lange has the opportunity to theatrically go mad.
Because Mary has begun shooting up again the night before we meet, Lange must come on stage as if she was high. This robs us of watching her “get there,” a journey which might make the character’s tensile presence more acceptable. (We are privy to further sinking and, finally, drowning.)
It’s palpably stressful to spend so much time with a woman who’s rarely clearheaded and often mentally elsewhere. There’s a colossal amount of technique on this stage. The line between it and inhabiting Mary Tyrone is fine and sometimes crossed. How much is a matter of opinion. A muscular portrayal.
As Irish maid, Kathleen, Colby Minifie is utterly charming and credible.
Jessica Lange and Gabriel Byrne
Director Jonathan Kent does a superb job of organically utilizing the space. That which is glimpsed through windows works wonderfully, especially a moment Jamie comes up the front steps to stage level. (We don’t see the steps.) Another jewel-like moment is James’s turning away to reach into his pocket and give Edmund money so his son doesn’t see what he has.
Despite its characters’ pontificating, inebriated/high states, much of this play has the Tyrone family staring at each other or brooding in a corner. There’s also a great deal of anxious, aimless walking and hapless gesturing. Kent successfully holds tension and guides focus during these evocative parentheses.
Plan to drink directly after curtain.
Photos by Joan Marcus Opening: Gabriel Byrne, Jessica Lange
Roundabout Theatre Company presents Long Day’s Journey Into Night by Eugene O’Neill Directed by Jonathan Kent American Airlines Theater 227 West 42nd Street Through June 26, 2016