Thursday, October 12, 2006

Did Critics Take Heart In Heartbreak House?

Did Critics Take Heart In Heartbreak House?

The fifth Broadway incarnation of George Bernard Shaw's Heartbreak House opened last evening. From a critical stand, this was clearly a house divided.

Calling this a "rippingly good revival," Ben Brantley of The New York Times seemed downright giddy in his review: "Shaw’s bracing analysis of a civilization in decline seems more valuable than ever. Valuable too is the care taken by the Roundabout Theater Company and the production’s director, Robin Lefèvre, to see that Shaw’s words are entrusted to actors able to transform his dense streams of talk into melodious music. This occurs with gratifying ease in this felicitously cast production, devoid of television or movie names on the upward or downward arc of their celebrity."

In noting that Heartbreak House "ultimately is a satisfying, impeccably designed production of a clever, complex play," Variety's David Rooney says, "...[T]he director and his cast score by allowing every delicious aphorism to land gently, without hammering them."

Awarding the production three out of four stars, USA Today's Elysa Gardner provided faint praise: "Under Robin LeFèvre's sturdy, reverent direction, the actors certainly capture the cerebral tang of Shaw's dialogue....Yet only a few of the players here manage to summon the poignancy underlying Shaw's dense prose. They include Bill Camp...and John Christopher Jones....The ever-reliable Philip Bosco shines in another sympathetic role....and Bosco serves them with a wry grace that's ideal. It's the one performance in this Heartbreak House that matches the power and elegance of the text. Well, almost."

In summing up his two-star review by saying "Where brilliance was needed, only competence glimmered through," New York Post's Clive Barnes was much less enthusiastic, noting, "George Bernard Shaw's Heartbreak House is one of those classic plays that promises more than it delivers -- but rarely has it delivered so little as it did last night at the American Airlines Theatre in an oddly flaccid staging by the Roundabout Theatre Company."

Joe Dziemianowicz of New York's Daily News admits to being bored by the production. "The Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of Heartbreak House begins with a woman seated on a couch, asleep. She's not the only one I saw catching zzz's during this enervating production that ran aground last night on Broadway....Robin Lefèvre's listless direction and torpid pacing, together with lackluster performances, rob the play of its wit, sting and linguistic richness."

Heartbreak House will play the American Airlines Theatre through December 10.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Heartbreak House Revival Settles Into Great White Way Home Tonight (October 11, 2006)

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