Friday, December 01, 2006

Did Critics Enjoy New Horizons Offered By Vertical Hour?

Did Critics Enjoy New Horizons Offered By Vertical Hour?

Last evening, The Vertical Hour became the first David Hare play to ever premiere on Broadway. But his work was not the only Great White Way debut -- Julianne Moore and Bill Nighy also trod the boards there for the first time, so obviously most of the critical focus is on their performances. The reviews themselves are mixed.

Proclaiming this "one of the best plays Broadway has seen in years," New York Post's Clive Barnes provides a three and a half star review: "Hare is at his most subtle in annotating the fever chart of mundane sexual tension, especially one tensed up by a generational gap -- and the sparks flashing here between the quietly conniving Nighy and the oddly aroused Moore are something to be observed....Nighy steals everything on the stage that hasn't actually been nailed down by the script....He is, of course, wonderful."

Praising the play as "thoughtful, often exhilarating and beautifully staged," Joe Dziemianowicz of New York's Daily News "Moore gets off to a tentative start, but goes on to give a richly layered, heartfelt and feisty performance. On stage, as in films, she excels at turning herself inside out to expose the rawness within. Helping her achieve all this is a fantastic cast. English actor fascinating from start to finish. He plays the cynical and caustic Oliver with so many body-language quirks, so much intelligence and sly humor that it's almost impossible to tear your gaze from him. But it is (Andrew) Scott, an Irish import, as Philip, who is the find here."

Stating that The Vertical Hour is "probably a few drafts away from being a satisfying work," David Rooney of Variety says that the show is "never dull but ultimately feels as messy and unresolved...Then there's the belated Broadway debut of Julianne Moore. But that underwhelming element turns out to be among the frustrating production's chief disappointments."

Agreeing with that assessment in her two and a half star review is USA Today's Elysa Gardner: "The problem with this production, directed with a light, sure hand by Sam Mendes, is that the actors cast as Nadia and Oliver are not equals. Julianne Moore, the luminous leading lady...isn't a stranger to the stage. But in this Broadway debut, she can seem strained and self-conscious. In contrast, Bill Nighy's Oliver is thoroughly convincing and deliciously idiosyncratic."

Calling much of Hare's script "a musty throwback," The New York Times' Ben Brantley also takes aim at the acting pair: "Mr. Nighy, to put it bluntly, mops the floor with Ms. Moore. You could even say that with his irresistibly mannered performance, he mops the floor with Mr. Hare’s play. Under the circumstances this can only be counted as a blessing....Ms. Moore, alas, is miscast....Ms. Moore often seems sheathed in an air of apology and uneasy introspection."

As noted here yesterday, the box office for previews was very strong, thanks in no small part to the high wattage star power on stage. Indeed, virtually every seat has been sold for performances to date. But whether that can be sustained through its limited run (the play is slated to close April 1, 2007) -- especially after some of the disappointing notices -- remains to be seen.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Vertical Hour's Clock Starts Ticking Tonight On Broadway (November 30, 2006)
Polls Close (But Another Opens) (November 10, 2006)
The Vertical Hour to Provide First Broadway Moments for Moore and Nighy (September 1, 2006)

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At 01 December, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doggone it. I certainly called this one wrong. Ah, well. At least they like Nighy.

At 01 December, 2006, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...


Given what the critics have collectively said, I think your preview review appeared to be right on the money!

Speaking of which, I enjoyed your recent piece on the new pocket change (although I don't know that William Henry Harrison's month in office really qualifies him for a place on our dollar...).

You provide a consistently great read, and I've added you to my list of daily reads on the right hand margin!


At 03 December, 2006, Blogger StephenMosher said...

I was at the very first performance of the play and I had a wondeful time. Mind you, I was seeing it with one of my closest and most intellectual friends, so talking about the play, the production,the performances and the subject matter made it all the better. Brady and I are intellectual geeks when we are together, clinging to each other for intelligent conversation; so delving into this one was easy. I could tell, though, that it was not going to be for everyone.

Hare's language is so rich. His themes are so heady, so topical. These are inteligent and gifted actors who turn in performances that are entirely non grand standy. I GOT it all. Many with whom I have spoken didn't. Sometimes we all hear different music...

Bottom line? I had a great time. Was it the best time I have ever had in a play? No. It certainly was no M BUTTERFLY or LITTLE FOXES for me. But it was a good night in the theater.

I'm glad I went!

xo, SOB!

At 04 December, 2006, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...


You're right about us all hearing different music. Just look at the reactions to Mary Poppins!!

Appreciate your insights into the show. I'd go see it just to hear David Hare's words come to life, but Bill Nighy alone seems worth the price of admission.



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