Sunday, May 29, 2011
Schaeffer's first mistake is using a pared-down version of the book, in which character development and atmosphere are given short-shrift and relationships are insufficiently delineated. This wouldn't matter as much if Schaeffer had directed the actors to take up the slack. Instead, he has led them into one-dimensional, ham-handed performances that telegraph the obvious points while completely ignoring the subtle ones.
Here's the rundown: Phyllis (Jan Maxwell) is angry. Ben (Ron Raines) is angry. Buddy (Danny Burstein) is angry. Sally (Bernadette Peters) is losing her mind. Period.
There is no sign of the spark between Phyllis and Ben that makes their somewhat happy ending effective. Maxwell shows no build or development in "Could I Leave You?" and Raines sings every note in every song the same exact way. Burstein's Buddy has a bit of a trajectory, going from vaguely hopeful to angry and resigned, but his version of "The Right Girl" is all grimaces and grunts.
Bernadette Peters, very much the star of this production, is not up to the task. She gives a whiny, teary, baby-voiced performance that is occasionally flat-out embarrassing. In fact, to find a line reading as bad as her "If you don't kiss me, Ben, I think I'm going to die," I have to go all the way back to Linda Ronstadt in The Pirates of Penzance in the 1970s. And Peters' "Losing My Mind" is dreadful, featuring every obvious depiction of losing one's mind short of eye-rolling.
The supporting cast is no better. Elaine Paige's "I'm Still Here" is about her ego and not about the song. Linda Lavin's "Broadway Baby" is about her ego and not about the song. God only knows what Regine's "Ah Paris" is about, but it's certainly not the song. Terri White's rendition of "Who's That Woman?" is good, but the direction removes the bittersweetness, leaving it as one-dimensional as the rest of the show.
The good points: Rosalind Ellis and Leah Horowitz did a lovely job on "One More Kiss," providing more subtlety than the rest of the show combined. Bernadette Peters' dresses were both beautiful, though the first one was wrong for the character. My friends and I had a lovely trip to DC. The crab cake at lunch on the way home was amazing.
($115 seats, 4th row center)