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(ETHEL BARRYMORE THEATER; 1060 SEATS; $91.5 TOP)
HEW YORK A Bill Kenwright presentation of a play in two acts by Tennessee Williams. Directed by David Leveaux. Sets and costumes, Tom Pye; lighting, Natasha Katz; music, Dan Moses Schreier, sound, Jon Weston; hair and wig design, David Brian Brown; production stage manager, Bonnie L. Becker. Opened March 22,2005. Reviewed March 19. Running time: 2 HOURS, 25 MIN. Amanda Wingfield ...... Jessica Lange Tom Wingfield ............... Christian Slater Laura Wingfield ............... Sarah Paulson The Gentleman Caller ........... Josh Lucas

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ITRGIMNA WOOLF?
(LONGACRE 1,095 SEATS; $915 TOP)
Daryl'Roth, Terry Allen Kramer, Scott Rudin, ;Roger Berlind, James 'L. Nederlander, Nick Simunek presentation of a play in three acts by Edward Albee. Directed'by Anthony Page. Sets, John Lee
Beatty; costumes, Jane Greenwood; lighting, Peter Kaczorowsld; sound, Mark Bennett; fight director, Rick Sordelet; praduction stage manager, Susie Cordon. Op,ened March 20, 2005. Reviewed March 17. Running time: 2 HOURS, 55 MIN. Mcrtha . . Kathleen Tarner George .. Bill Irwin Haney . .. ;lireille Enos M Nick . . David Harbour
i .

By DAVID ROONEY n his autobiography "Timebends," Arthur Miller wrote, 'The revolutionary newness of " The Glass Menagerie' was in its poetic lift, but an underlying hard dramatic structure was what earned the play its right to sing poetically. Poetry in the theater is not, or at least ought not be, a cause but a consequence, and that structure of storytelling and character made this very private play available to anyone capable of feeling at all." In his sadly wilted revival of Tennessee Williams' 1945 breakout play, David Leveaux seems willfully to favor cause over consequence. The director is so in thrall to theatrical affectation that he has quite literally at times thrown a murky veil over the enduring work in terms of both its singing romantic lyricism and the clear-eyed mission of its dramatic storytelling. This approach limits' access to the pathos of the Wingfield family and its private prisons, rendering superficial the depth of feeling in Williams' most painfully autobiographical play. And while it's no simple feat to find new textures in the familiar roles of such a frequently performed work 60 years on, Leveaux steers his four actors along disappointingly obvious routes. After playing Blanche DuBois in "A Streetcar Named Desire" to mixed critical response on Broadway in 1992 and again in London in Peter Hall's 1997 staging, Jessica Lange returns to the Williams canon as an especially fluttery Amanda Wingfield. The charges of inaudibility that dogged Lange last time around apply only in early scenes here; the actress projects more confidently as she fires up into the role, gradually uncovering the humanity and fragility hidden beneath the exasperating veneer of this carping, controlling, hopelessly confused woman. Lange's lingering beauty lends credence to Amanda's inflated recollections of her vibrant youth as a magnet for beaux but diminishes the poignancy of her having become a faded rose.
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IIEW YORK Elizabeth Ireland McCann, An

Bjf DAVID ROONEY ore than 40 years after it was first seen and almost three decades SilIce its last Broadway revival, Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of,Virginia. Woolf?" remains a searing study of a marriage ba,sed on mutual flagellation, plhotographed in the form of a war plan that charts insidious subversive tactics, messy guerrilla assaults and deadly frontal attacks before registering the aching hollowness of defeat and surrender. If Anthony Page's irlpeccably classy staging has a somewhat muted quality that allowrs the drama to fire on all cylinders only intermittently, the stunning cruelty- and compassion of the writing still stand tall. Of course, the main strength in any production of Albee's bestknown play lies in the casting of Gilorge and Martha, the stymied college professor and his braying, belittlingwife, whose savage games belie their desperate interdependeYIcy. While both Bill Irwin and KIthleen Turner give off frequent flashes of incisive wit and naked emotional need camouflaged by hardened indifference, neither has a consistent grip on their character. 'From "Body Heat" through "War of the Roses," Turner's screen career would appear to be a rehearsal for Martha. Her husky, lih ed-in voice brings haunted poignancy to Martha's submission iwhen George ruthlessly tips the scales in the couple's fragile balaance of truth and illusion. While shel arguably undersells Martha's obscenity, Turner saunters through the role's gin-soaked, blowzy flirtatiousness and wry dii3gustwith ease. But much of her perf is marked

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by a nagging shortage of authority or, more to the point, ferocity. Martha's festering rancor toward her husband for his failure to make a mark - remaining "in the history department as opposed tobeing the history department," despite having a father-in-law-who's faculty president - seems only partially tapped by Turner. A far less obvious casting stroke, Irwin's buttoned-up physicality feeds an interesting take on George, initially as gray and spent as his cardigan vest and tweedy trousers. He conveys the man's resilient, bristling intellect, but the actor's arch detachment softens both the bruising George has bad to endure and the vengeful punishment he ladles out. It's unsurprising, given Irwin's background as a comic and mime, that his perf is twitchy, irritable and even slightly :fey rather than simmering with sustained, suppressed rage, as the part is often played. His George comes to life in fidgety fits and starts, too rarely pouncing like the wounded animal he is. Both leads register moments 'of blistering power but the overriding quietness of the approach is not always satisfying. So much restraint in a long night that famously navigates through games of humiliatethe-host, hump-the-hostess and get-the-guest before daggers are fully drawn ultimately. softens the drama's emotional punch. As much as the lobbing of verbal grenades between husband and wife, the play is about their exhibition of the marital minefield before the captive audience of Nick and Honey, an ambitious, cocky young newveomer to the biology department and his dim bulb of a wife. The interaction between the two couples, particularly between George and Nick, adds immeasurably to the play's textUre in terms of the friction and distrust between middle age and youth, resentful failure

and aggressive promise. George sees Nick as the bland, blond superman threat, one of the ants that will

take over the world. David IHarbour and Mireille
Enos are every bit a match for Irwin and Turner and perhaps have

Even if she is perhaps still carrying a little too much Blanche baggage, Lange's characterization feels fullest when she ignites into girlish, giddy mode, notably upon fulfillment of her wish for a gentleman caller for her painfully shy, crippled daughter Laura (Sarah Paulson). Amanda's triumphantly convulsive gush of ceremonious babble is funny, but also one of the rare moments in the perf to invite sympathy for the woman, pathetically lost in a world of past romance she strives to reconjure as much for herself as for Laura. Lange hurtles through some of Amanda's more memorable dialogue, particularly the ecstatic "jonquils" reverie. But her brittle frailty sits well with Amanda's perennially agitated state and the selfish insensitivity that clashes with her maternal devotion. She also deserves credit for generally containing Amanda's Southern flightiness. But there's little to render this performance a distinctive take on the character. Much of the blame, however, lies -with Leveaux's approach, which brings some peculiar - and frustrating - innovations to ;the staging but not much in the way of fresh exploration or insight into the text. While Amanda is the showiest part, the drama's fundamental anchor is her restless son Tom, the narrator of Williams' memory play and a stand-in for the playwright himself A last-minute replacement when Dallas Roberts was

a firmer handle on their characters.
Harbour's squarely handsome looks are a neat period fit for a play set in 1960. He conveys the smooth self-

possession of a former athlete who sees himself as a foregone winner
but is unprepared to go up against a

man who exercises his wits the way
other people sharpen knives. Enos seems at first to have pushed Honey too far toward borderline simple-mindedness. But as she hits the brandy bottle with in-

creasing abandon, the actress
finds the tenderly exposed heart -of unsavvy Honey, making the emotional devastation wreaked by George on the young couple even

more harrowing. While the diseased contract between George and Martha clearly remains intact, the bond between Nick and Honey has been- brutally unmasked as fraudulent by play's end.

A seasoned director of Albee's
plays, Page orchestrates the proceedings with subtlety and clarity, but allows too much slackness to creep into the three-act, three-hour staging, which unfolds entirely

within designer John Lee Beatty's
dusty, wood-paneled living room. Albee's revised text reflects some questionable decisions, jettisoning the act-two exchange in

which George rehearses his coup
de gracewith Honey, yet retaining Martha's meandering mpnologue at the start of act three, here one of Turner's weaker moments. As sharp and brilliantly structured as the writing is, the uneven electricityof this production makes one appreciate even more the intelligent economies of Ernest Lehman's script for Mike Nichols' 1966film. 0

dismissed at the start of previews, the badly miscast Christian Slater is too old at 35 and seems too ruggedly masculine to play Tom, a character so often brushed with sexual ambiguity. (In fact, his Tom gives off the wrong kind of sexual energy around his mother and sister, clearly a conscious choice made by Leveaux but an offputting one.) Nor is there any trace of the poet in Slater's capable but uninvolving perf. I-le comes across through Tom's supposedly sorrow.: ful recollections as snarky and disgruntled, but minus the airless desperation of a trapped man forced to make a pitiless exit. As for Laura, Paulson's infantile slowness of speech unfortunately makes her seem not just withdrawn but feeble-minded. The lion to next page

Wilson Company. To contact the publisher: http://www. .com Copyright 1982-2005 The H.W. All rights reserved. All rights reserved.reedbusiness. Inc. a division of Reed Elsevier.COPYRIGHT INFORMATION TITLE: Albee classic still stings in restrained revival SOURCE: Variety 398 no6 Mr 28-Ap 3 2005 WN: 0508705045019 Copyright (2002) Reed Business Information.