Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Jacksonian ***

(Please click on the title to see the complete review.)
Beth Henley's bizarre Southern gothic mystery set in the Mississippi of 1964 is so over the top that it flirts dangerously with parody. Without superb acting, it might be virtually unwatchable. But what a cast The New Group has assembled! For the opportunity to see Ed Harris, Glenne Headly, Bill Pullman and Amy Madigan together on the same stage, I'll put up with a lot. They are joined by newcomer Juliet Brett. The plot revolves around the Perch family -- Bill (Harris), a dentist exiled from the family home, his difficult wife Susan (Madigan), and their troubled 16-year-old daughter Rosy (Brett). Bill is staying at the titular motel whose staff include the memorably creepy bartender Fred (Pullman) and the lusciously overripe maid Eva (Headly). We learn early on there will be a murder. The lurid action moves back and forth in time over a 7-month period. The casual racism of the time and place is never far from the surface. Walt Spangler's evocative set makes good use of the awkwardly wide stage. Ana Kuzmanic's costumes are perfection. Director Robert Falls skillfully keeps the grotesquerie within bounds. It is a puzzling play that will probably displease many, but I thought it was redeemed by the outstanding acting and high production values. Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission.

No comments: