Monday, May 07, 2007

Did Critics Call Deuce A Winner?

Did Critics Call Deuce A Winner?

Last evening, the Michael Blakemore-helmed Deuce by Terrence McNally opened at the Music Box Theatre. What's made this play particularly noteworthy is its teaming of Angela Lansbury with Marian Seldes. While the reviews largely took issue with the play's writing, its stars were spared from criticism.

Calling it a "wisp of a play," Michael Kuchwara of the Associated Press is probably the most upbeat: "The reason we are at the Music Box Theatre, where Deuce opened Sunday, is to see Lansbury and Seldes, and McNally supplies them with enough witty lines and rueful insight to keep the audience content during the play's 90 or so minutes....The chief problem with Deuce is that it doesn't go anywhere. Dramatically, it marks time. Unlike Love! Valour! Compassion! or Master Class, both McNally Tony winners, there aren't any fireworks."

Complaining that the show is "deucedly unexciting," Bloomberg's John Simon finds some good things to say: "Michael Blakemore has directed expertly, Peter J. Davison's set is ingenious and Ann Roth's costumes, like Mark Henderson's lighting, are up to snuff. And you couldn't ask for better principals than Marian Seldes (Midge) and Angela Lansbury (Leona)....Sorely missing is a plot. Two women attending a tennis match might work as a snappy revue sketch; stretched out into an evening's entertainment it is both too much and not enough."

Lamenting that the "script is one long feathery tease that never delivers," The New York Times' Ben Brantley pans: "No, the true tension in Deuce arises from the fight between two valiant, vibrant actresses against a swamp of a play that keeps trying to suck the life out of them. And even a director as assured as Mr. Blakemore, who has done so brilliantly by the plays of Michael Frayn, can’t make us pretend otherwise....Deuce feels lazy. It’s a grab bag of synthetic scraps of sentimental truisms and grumpy-old-broad humor.

Criticizing the show as a "criminal waste of talent" in her two star review, Elysa Gardner of USA Today says: "Most of the banter is numbingly trite, whether the subject is the indignity of old age or the proliferation of lesbians in pro tennis, a topic that McNally milks with a fascination and fervency you'd expect from an old Borscht Belt comedian....Watching the leading ladies try to breathe life and wit into these near-caricatures, you're torn between marveling at the actresses' transcendent grace and wondering what led them -- particularly the long-absent Lansbury -- to take on this project."

Derisively calling the show "a double fault," New York Post's Clive Barnes deadpans: "So what happened? Unfortunately, nothing! Nothing happened. The 81-year-old Lansbury and the 78-year-old Seldes could read the proverbial Forest Hills or even the Flushing Meadows telephone directory and make it sound like . . . well, like something more than just a telephone directory....McNally, 67, normally one of our best and certainly one of our most reliable playwrights, may have written a worse play, even one with such minimal plotting and languid, desultory writing, but I can't recall it."

Referring to it as a "moldy new comedy," Eric Grode of The New York Sun is dismissive: "During 95 intermissionless minutes, the well-born Margaret 'Midge' Barker (Ms. Seldes) and the blue-collar Leona Mullen (Ms. Lansbury) tell Viagara jokes, get trembly-lipped about mortality, and drop the sort of four-letter words that would have sent dear Jessica Fletcher -- the gumshoe played by Ms. Lansbury on 'Murder, She Wrote' -- hurtling over the handlebars of her bike. That these exchanges generate even a tiny handful of laughs has everything to do with the formidable pair of actresses and virtually nothing to do with Mr. McNally or director Michael Blakemore, who appears to have staged the play when he had a few hours to kill one afternoon."

Despite the reviews, one could probably correctly assume that this show would be critic-proof from the point of view that fans wishing for one more chance to see legendary actresses will turn out regardless. I'll be sharing my own SOB Review shortly.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.

Related Stories:

Deuce: Opening Night Served (May 6, 2007)

Deuce Tickets Now On Pre-Sale (January 10, 2007)

Polls Close (But Another Opens) (November 10, 2006)

Legendary Acting Ace Angela Lansbury To Star In Deuce (October 31, 2006)

Survey Says.... (October 23, 2006)

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At 07 May, 2007, Blogger Sarah B. Roberts said...

Like I keep saying, it's nothing for a Pulitzer but it's certainly entertaining. Looking forward to your review.

At 07 May, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Sarah - You are right. It is fun, and now that I've posted my review, you'll have to tell me whether you agree.


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