Friday, January 23, 2009

Sounds Like A Plan: Critics Review Greenberg Play

Sounds Like A Plan: Critics Review Greenberg Play

Last night, the Manhattan Theatre Club (MTC) revival of Richard Greenberg's The American Plan opened at Broadway's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Helmed by David Grindley, the play about potential love on a Catskill lake stars Mercedes Ruehl, Lily Rabe, Kieran Campion, Austin Lysy and Brenda Pressley.

Critics were across the dock on this one.

Praising it as "an elegant and incisive 1990 play that has been given the revival it deserves," The New York Times' Ben Brantley waxes rhapsodic: "People rarely talk about doing or having done things in the precisely and exquisitely written American Plan; instead they speak of what happened to them.... Out of such innately inactive types Mr. Greenberg has woven a drama that crackles with friction and a muted suspense, stoked by the throb of stifled desires.... But what this production brings out so beautifully is how Mr. Greenberg ... combines novelistic nuance with theatrical flash. There probably isn’t a more consciously literary play on the boards in Manhattan now (well, from the past century, anyway) than The American Plan, which is as precisely patterned as a sonnet by Milton. Yet Mr. Grindley and his cast make the play as engaging as a potboiling soap opera."

Concluding that The American Plan "is written with characteristic eloquence, and beautifully played," Elysa Gardner of USA Today provides three and a half (out of four) stars: "Though Greenberg's breezy facility with language can run the risk of being mistaken for glibness, Plan deals unflinchingly with some dense, bitter truths: the selfishness of a mother's love, the convenience of lies and half-truths, the cruelly arbitrary nature of catastrophic events.... Ruehl brings great style and compassion to Eva. But the real star of this production is Rabe, who continues to blossom into one of the most beguiling stage actresses of her generation."

Deeming this a "delicate" revival," Variety's David Rooney practically tip-toes around his own review without really sticking his foot in the water: "If the play's themes don't crystallize as swiftly or satisfyingly as they should, it's nonetheless an absorbing reflection on relationships carved out of disappointment and resignation in an era immediately before nonconformity became a more available option.... Much of the low-key tension in the characters' interplay, teased out with a gentle but coaxing hand by director David Grindley, stems from their exertions to keep up a facade or to lock in the elements that will allow them to construct one.... Even if there's something naggingly insubstantial about the minor-key play ... the acerbic wit of Greenberg's dialogue and the frequent acuity of his psychological insights keep it engrossing."

Calling it a "thoughtful but slow-moving play," Joe Dziemianowicz of New York's Daily News awards three out of five stars: "(Grindley's) staging is straightforward and clear, but repetitive. After each scene, the dock rotates behind a sweeping curtain. The constant 'here we spin again' gets dull. The performances, fortunately, never do. Campion, Pressley and a particularly fine Lysy bring nuance to their roles. In presence and performance, Tony- and Oscar-winner Ruehl is big and bold.... [T]his is (Rabe's) finest, most complex performance so far."

Complaining that "there's too much talk, too little action," New York Post's Barbara Hoffman gives away too much of the plot in her two and a half (out of four) star review: "[T]he real dance in Richard Greenberg's intermittently intriguing 1990 play is the tango between a domineering mother and her delicate daughter. Think The Glass Menagerie and The Light in the Piazza, in the looming shadow of (spoiler alert!) 'Brokeback Mountain.' Ruehl, one of our great stage actresses, makes Eva a force of nature. But even as she gleefully extols the excesses across the lake ... she's constrained by an ungainly German accent. It's like seeing a beautiful woman who's been zipped into a fat suit and can't get out. You wish someone had sprung for a dialog coach."

Lamenting that "American Plan doesn't add up to much more than a social study about the oppression of a wide assortment of tyrannies," Newsday's Linda Winer is engaged, but otherwise dismissive: "The Manhattan Theatre Club ... has revived it in the company's Broadway venue as a vehicle for the compulsively watchable Mercedes Ruehl and Lily Rabe.... And the production, directed by David Grindley ... doesn't always help us sort out the unknowable from the unbelievable in these complicated people.... And Brenda Pressley is quietly shattering as the black maid-companion, a woman who isn't quite family but who has given up her entire life to facilitate someone else's. There is a play in this unexplored character, perhaps more compelling than this one."

I'll be seeing the production in February and will weigh in with my own SOB Review. The limited run is scheduled through March 15.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Technorati blog directory Blog Directory & Search engine
Visitor Map

Powered by FeedBurner