Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Silver Cord *

Peccadillo Theater Company specializes in reviving classic American plays. Some years back, I attended their fine production of Elmer Rice’s Counsellor-at-Law, which went on to win awards for best revival and best direction. Thus I was eager to see their current offering, Sidney Howard’s “Freudian melodrama,” which was a Broadway hit in the 1926-27 season and was later adapted for film. The fact that Peccadillo had already revived it once, 18 years ago, piqued my curiosity even more. Howard wrote this play the year after he won the Pulitzer for They Knew What They Wanted (later musicalized as The Most Happy Fella). Alas, the years have not been kind to The Silver Cord. This tale of a pathologically overprotective, manipulative mother may have seemed fresh, original and even shocking almost 80 years ago, but now seems tired, overheated and unintentionally funny. When I discovered that Mrs. Phelps would be played by a man, Dale Carman, I worried that might lead to campiness. On the contrary, Carman gives a subdued performance, which may have been the wrong way to go. The level of performance of the cast, which includes Thomas Matthew Kelley as David, the elder son, Victoria Mack as Christina, his feminist wife, Wilson Bridges as wimpy younger brother Robert and Caroline Kaplan as his flapper fiancee, is disappointing, but it would be unkind to be too hard on any actors forced to mouth such ludicrous dialog. Harry Feiner’s set, Gail Cooper-Hecht’s costumes and Gerard James Kelly’s wigs are fine. I cannot imagine what prompted artistic director Dan Wackerman to revive and helm this chestnut a second time. If nothing else, it proves that not every play a Pulitzer-winner writes will be a gem. Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes including intermission.

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