Deuce (The SOB Review) - Music Box Theatre, New York, NY
*** (out of ****)
There's a line near the end of Deuce
offered up by an adoring fan (Michael Mulheren
) of tennis legends Midge Barker (Marian Seldes
) and Leona Mullen (Angela Lansbury
) in which he implores the audience to "Look at them. You will not see their likes again."
From the moment the curtain was raised on this Michael Blakemore
-helmed play by Terrence McNally
, I did exactly that...no prompting necessary. I relished the opportunity to sit in the presence of these two theatrical treasures, both of whom delivered their lines flawlessly and from the heart. I realize that this was a moment to cherish.
While the play itself is no great shakes, the performances offered by these two leading ladies of the stage far transcended the mediocre material they were given, enough to make for an enjoyable -- and yes, entertaining -- evening at the theatre.
While less accomplished actresses may have double-faulted with the material, these two kept the volley of conversation ranging from past loves to the indignities of growing old mostly in bounds -- save for the occasional jokey utterance of a four letter word.
Without question, Deuce offers one of McNally's slightest pieces of work: a story of a celebrated yesteryear tennis doubles team who together nearly had it all -- including a near grand slam -- during an era preceding one when the game provided giant payouts and endorsement deals to its female stars. Thirty-some years after they retired, the two champions are reunited at a present-day tennis tournament where they're about to be honored.
Seated throughout most of the show, Midge and Leona reminisce about what was and might have been, as well as what had long been misunderstood. Their repartee is punctuated throughout the ninety-five minute performance by a daft, egocentric pair of ESPN-lite sportscasters who provide additional details on their backstory.
While the audience never sees what's happening on the court, a brilliant video and projection design by Sven Ortel
, coupled with Paul Charlier
's sound design, enables the audience to see what little action there is in the stands.
Naysayers will charge that there is no action or dramatic tension. Make no mistake, this is more of a star vehicle than one built for major awards. But I for one enjoyed an opportunity to take in these great actresses' back and forth banter -- a sometimes funny and often moving conversation between old friends. Maybe it's wise not only to look at the likes of these legends, but also to listen.
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).
Labels: Angela Lansbury, Broadway, Deuce, Marian Seldes, Play, Terrence McNally, The SOB Review