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.

Matthew Broderick

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

Shining City – Unmoored in A Crowded City


In essence, Shining City (last seen here on Broadway in 2006), is another of playwright Conor McPherson’s ghost stories. This one, however, alludes not only an “actual” spirit, but city lives lived, despite liaisons, without roots or attachments, adrift in limbo.

Still living with unopened cartons, fledgling therapist Ian (Billy Carter) welcomes his first patient with professionalism that covers insecurity.  John (Matthew Broderick) evidently tried to get an appointment with a psychiatrist recommended by his doctor, but waiting time was four months. We never learn how he found Ian. John’s problem, emerging in the fits and starts of an otherwise, one suspects, taciturn man, is that his wife Mari is appearing in the house weeks after she died in a particularly grisly car crash. The patient is so badly shaken, he’s moved into a B & B.

Lisa Dwan, Billy Carter

John and Mari barely communicated when she was alive. He had no idea she was out the night she died or where she was going. If they’d only communicated. If they’d only been able to have children. Is she now trying to punish her husband or to tell him something?

Ian is –surprise!- visited by Neasa (Lisa Dwan) the mother of his baby. Despite an argument, oblivious to exit statements, she expected him home days ago. Stuck in his brother’s house, life’s become ostracized hell. We learn some of Ian’s backstory, viable reasons for his feeling troubled. He will, he promises, be responsible.

Next we look in on the therapist one night when he’s picked up Laurence (James Russell) in a park. Homeless, in debt, and also a father, the man is reduced to selling himself in order to be able to go back to temporary digs. This is Ian’s awkward first time with a man. It doesn’t turn out as planned.


Billy Carter and James Russell; Billy Carter

Furniture is moved, cartons packed. Ian is once again moving. John returns for a last visit. Both his and Ian’s lives have radically changed. Or have they?

McPherson’s episodic piece is fatalistic. These are four characters without real homes, in search of connection, who “affiliate” but seem not to bond. Loneliness in a crowd. Less poignant than numb. Uncomfortably familiar. Even the building’s door buzzer never gets fixed.

Director Ciaran O’Reilly makes us feel like voyeurs. Even the playwright’s signature, fragmented dialogue arrives authentic. Each actor wears anxiety and disassociation a bit differently; the sum may make you squirm. Raised voices are never gratuitous. In fact, tensions often show themselves in small ways like John’s hand upon the couch arm, a single finger twitching or Laurence’s sudden, yet ambivalent move towards John. Ian’s unwitting smiles at some of what John tells him are priceless.

Billy Carter (Ian) is an onstage natural. The actor uses his character’s feelings to color every word and move or lack thereof rather than demonstrate them. He is here, palpably, a man shut off from himself as well as the world.

Matthew Broderick (John) begins a victim of our familiarity. It takes awhile to accept his pronounced Irish accent. Drawn sympathetically to the turbulence that drives him, however, we become as accustomed to it as we do to his self-flagellating guilt. Broderick is a master of hesitant, confused delivery. His everyman persona serves the role. John could be your friend, your neighbor.

An unnerving play.

Charlie Corcoran’s Set is appropriately utilitarian and minimal with details reflecting an old building.

The newly renovated Irish Repertory Theater is more comfortable, more accessible, and more spacious. A venerable and worthy institution begins another act like a phoenix rising from plaster and sawdust.

Photos by Carol Rosegg
Opening: Matthew Broderick, Billy Carter

Shining City by Conor McPherson
Directed by Ciaran O’Reilly
Irish Repertory Theatre
132 West 22nd Street
Through July 3, 2016