(To see the complete review, please click on the title.)
I should have learned by now that I rarely respond well to theatrical whimsy. Only my curiosity to see Jim Parsons onstage in a leading role led me to buy a ticket for the Roundabout Theatre's revival of Mary Chase's 1944 comedy. Parsons acquits himself well enough as Elwood P. Dowd, but the role isn't much of a stretch from Dr. Sheldon Cooper, his TV persona. The play itself may be of sociological interest as a relic of a more innocent age, but it is about as frothy as stale beer. Most of the writing is leaden and obvious. For a few moments late in the first act, it rises to the level of farce, but it fails to offer much in the way of humor, charm or wisdom. (It is simply inconceivable that it won the Pulitzer over "The Glass Menagerie' in 1944. I can only assume that it offered a welcome respite from the anxiety of wartime.) To make matters worse, some of the casting is unfortunate. Jessica Hecht, whom I usually admire, is terribly miscast as Veta. I don't know whether anyone could humanize the stereotypical role of her daughter Myrtle Mae, but Tracie Chimo is not the one. Charles Kimbrough and Larry Bryggman, two old pros, are convincing in their roles; Morgan Spector and Rich Sommer are adequate in theirs. Carol Kane is fine in her usual role of a a ditz. David Rockwell's evocative set of the library a fusty mansion neatly splits in thirds and rotates to become the reception room of Chumley's Rest. Jane Greenwood's costumes vividly recreate the look of the '40s. Scott Ellis's direction lacks effervescence. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes including intermission.