Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Royal Family

The revival of George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's 1927 comedy, The Royal Family, demonstrates the many difficulties of performing a farce. Speaking quickly and throwing one's body around is not enough. Pacing is needed, as is a core of humanity and a sense of when to let the jokes breathe a bit. At the preview I saw (well over a week into previews), the pacing, humanity, and breathing space were all sorely lacking. Jan Maxwell gives her all to Julie Cavendish, the center of the madcap acting family (loosely based on the Barrymores), but she is so frenetic that her Julie never registers as a real human being. The rest of the cast is uneven, with the lovely Rosemary Harris turning in the best performance as the matriarch of the family. I imagine that, with more time, the actors will overcome their unsureness with props, and I certainly hope that someone fixes the hairdos/wigs, which seemed to distract the actors as much as they distracted the audience. (Having said all that, I suggest that this review be taken with a large grain of salt. I could not get the superb 1970s revival out of my head, and it would be hard even for an excellent production to live up to those memories.)

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