|Emily Skeggs, William Jackson Harper, Cotter Smith, Michele Pawk, Tyne Daly, |
Sydney Lucas, Caleb McLaughlin, Anthony Edwards, Jenny Jules, Will Pullen
Photo: Paul Zimmerman/WireImage
As a play reading, however, the evening was disappointing. While Hollywood Arms has lovely moments and some patented Carol Burnett humor, it's mediocre overall. The structure is far too episodic and repetitive, and the characters are insufficiently fleshed out. There's no convincing through-line, other than being based on Burnett's life story. People's lives seldom follow dramatic arcs, and fiction makes more demands than reality does. For example, while it's true that a stranger handed Burnett $1,000 when she was just getting started, the event is a little too deus ex machina for a modern play.
The performances were uneven. As far as I'm concerned, Tyne Daly practically walks on water. However, readings are not her métier (this is the second one I've seen her in). While she can tell an entire story with a glance, her line readings were awkward and lacked comic timing. I was also unimpressed with Michelle Pawk's performance (though I was clearly in the minority on that point).
Sydney Lucas and Emily Skeggs were both amazing, as always. Lucas could have been a touch clearer on some line readings, but her presence and vivid emotionality were almost frighteningly effective. Emily Skeggs nailed the long monologue/routine in which the character based on Burnett tells the entire story of a movie and plays all the roles. She also physicalized her character's determination beautifully. Cotter Smith and Anthony Edwards brought much to their small roles.
Hollywood Arms was obviously a labor of love for Burnett and her daughter Carrie Hamilton, who died in 2002 at the sadly young age of 38. And there was a great deal of love in Merkin Hall last night. As an event, the evening was indeed a great success.--Wendy Caster
(press ticket, 7th row on the aisle)