Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Was Jean Brodie Primed To Be Hit Or Miss With Critics?

Was Jean Brodie Primed To Be Hit Or Miss With Critics?

Last evening marked the official opening of The New Group's revival of The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie starring Cynthia Nixon in the title role. Scott Elliott directed the play, which received very mixed reviews from critics (click here for my own review).

Newsday's Linda Winer provided the most praise, saying, "With Nixon galvanizing the center...Elliott has found the danger lurking beneath the romanticism of a charismatic teacher with only a few lapses of character....Most of all, Nixon and Elliott find the psychological strands that connect the teacher's early rebellious idealism to the monster who eventually embraces Mussolini, Franco and even Hitler as heroic men of action. Her mantra, 'Give me a girl at an impressionable age and she is mine for life,' chillingly becomes more threat than promise....Without breaking her spell, Nixon's Jean starts making us uneasy about her ambitions for her students - especially for the pretty one (the deceptively aware Halley Wegryn Gross) who looks a little like her."

The critique of Joe Dziemianowicz of New York's Daily News went right down the middle: "Nixon, under director Scott Elliott, delivers a good performance, but she's not idiosyncratic enough or as enthralling as she must be for the play to fly....The plot comes down to three women: Brodie; her nemesis, Miss Mackay, the rigid headmistress (a fittingly dour Lisa Emery); and Brodie's most-trusted pupil, Sandy (Zoe Kazan, impressive -- and fully nude -- in her New York debut), who realizes how dangerous her reckless mentor is and puts a stop to her....Sarah Steele, Betsy Hogg and Halley Wegryn Gross turn in fine performances as the students Brodie calls her 'crème de la crème.' If only the whole production rose to such exalted heights."

Calling this revival "airless," Ben Brantley of The New York Times wasn't buying Nixon's performance: "[H]er pinched Scottish accent forces her voice into uncomfortably nasal upper registers that suggest Miss Brodie could be Minnie Mouse’s cousin from Edinburgh. It is not a voice to inspire girls to romantic reverie. The overall effect is more coquettish, even girlish, than passionate....The other adults, by the way, are uniformly good....Mr. (Ritchie) Coster, in particular, is excellent as Teddy Lloyd, the dashing but seedy art instructor, and he provides this production’s one illuminating insight....Ms. Brodie’s coterie of favored pupils, the anointed 'crème de la crème,' are all fine. Zoe Kazan...turns in a fluid, deeply felt performance (and even survives that excruciating nude scene in Teddy’s studio)."

Proclaiming the play "past its prime," Variety's David Rooney pans the show noting, "On the evidence presented in director Scott Elliott's pedestrian staging, this is a profound mismatch of leading actress and character....Nixon tends to convey flinty, grounded intelligence, her warmth and humor nestled behind a circumspect veneer....[B]ut they don't fit flawed, fanciful Jean Brodie."

The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie is playing at Off-Broadway's Acorn Theatre through December 9.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie (The SOB Review) - Acorn Theatre, New York, NY (October 10, 2006)
Prime Time Tonight Off-Broadway (October 9, 2006)
Cynthia Nixon Lands Prime Role (June 8, 2006)

Labels: , , , , ,


At 10 October, 2006, Blogger Eve said...

I love the movie with Muriel Spark.

I'm not a theater buff, but thanks for the heads up!

At 10 October, 2006, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...


Obviously I enjoyed the play much more than some of the critics -- I saw it similarly to the way Linda Winer viewed it. But I dare say that the audience response was also similar to mine the night I saw it.

I invite you to keep your comments coming! Thanks for joining the conversation.

Steve On Broadway (SOB)

At 12 October, 2006, Anonymous Gene J. said...

This production also has another two very good actresses in it. The first is Lisa Emery who I first saw in Burn This" after she replaced Joan Allen. The comment from the NYTimes was "get this actress another play."
Then there is Caroline Lagerfelt who played opposite Daniel Davis in "The Misanthrope" at The Guthrie in Minneapolis. I have also seen her in NY in a show that I did not like but her dominatrix apparel was memorable. The show was "A Small Family Business" with Jane Carr, Brian Murray, Anthony Heald amongst others.
As for Ms. Nixon...I saw here in "Hurlyburly" in 1984 and I remember one of her lines as she stood at the upstairs doorway and asked Harvey Keitel's character "do you wanna f*&^?
I attempt to see shows with these women if they are in a show when I am in NYC. I'm not always that fortunate.

At 12 October, 2006, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 12 October, 2006, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thanks for your comments, Gene.

I should have mentioned how much I enjoyed Lisa Emery in this production -- I first saw her in the 2001 Broadway production of The Women (alongside Cynthia Nixon), which was much better than the critics gave it credit for being. She gave a appropriately acidic performance as Miss Mackay in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

This was my first opportunity to see Caroline Lagerfelt -- there's not too much you can do in a tertiary role, especially as a nun -- but as I mentioned in my own review, the entire ensemble was great.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Technorati blog directory Blog Directory & Search engine
Visitor Map

Powered by FeedBurner