Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Delicate Balance **

Let me confess that this play, despite its Pulitzer Prize, has never seemed to me on a par with Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” or “Three Tall Women.” Based on Pam MacKinnon’s superb direction of the former play and the promising cast she assembled for this one, I hoped that this production might change my mind. It didn’t. I found the first half of the play listless and lacking any sense of ensemble. Things improved with the second scene of Act II and cohered even more for Act III. By then it was almost too late, because a solid foundation had not been built. The quality of the acting was below my expectations. Glenn Close, in the key role of Agnes, projected poorly, stumbled over her lines more than once and seemed generally distracted. Lindsay Duncan, as her drunk sister Claire, underplayed her role; Martha Plimpton, as much-married daughter Julia, overplayed hers. Of the four main characters, only John Lithgow, as Agnes’s husband Tobias, seemed to fully inhabit his role. Claire Higgins and Bob Balaban, as the terrified neighbors Edna and Harry, who move in, are very good. However, if it’s Harry and Edna that grab the most attention, something is wrong with the play’s delicate balance. The lavish living room designed by Santo Loquasto is imposing, but Ann Roth’s color-coordinated costumes were a bit much. I should mention that the conditions for enjoying the play were less than ideal. Legroom in the Golden Theatre’s mezzanine was minimal. The audience was annoying, laughing at inappropriate moments such as during Tobias’ impassioned monologue. Not a great evening for theater, alas. Running time: two hours, forty minutes, including two intermissions.

No comments: