Tuesday, March 10, 2009


"Impressionism" at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, March 7, 2009

Lots of stars returning to their Broadway roots this Spring. This venture includes Jeremy Irons and Joan Allen in a new pilot play by Michael Jacobs.

I'm a big fan of both actors and was excited to get to see them onstage.

I wish I'd known more about the playwright beforehand. Mr. Jabobs' background includes NY theatre in the late 70s and early 80s, before seemingly settling into Burbank where he "created, produced or developed 14 series including...'My Two Dads' [and] 'Charles in Charge' " among others.

There are some great one-liners tossed about as Mr. Irons' Thomas Buckle, the realist photographer works in the Chelsea art Gallery of Ms. Allen's Katherine Keenan (though it's never clear why he's working there).

If I thought Jane Fonda was looking good at 71, Joan Allen looks nowhere near 52, which actually undercuts the final moments of the play since you've forgotten the age difference between the two of them is not really that significant. Mr. Irons, in his defense, is still wiry and slim, and ever-so-charming.

The play is a bit of a trifle, as we slog back and forth through time watching Ms. Allen's character devolve from the freest of spirited 6 year old, to a painfully inhibited 30-something to a closed book pushing 50. Parallels and analogies are all over the place from an aqua-tint print she associates with her own mother, to a little boy who dies from AIDS in Africa. The message seems to be: We are all wounded, but is it from reality or our impression of reality? (And on a side note, with as much furor over production costs, was it really necessary for the playbill insert with the scene listing to be full-color card stock?)

I did like some of Scott Pasks set choices: Mr. Irons' desk a stark white Parsons Table, compared to Ms. Allen's French antique, and a faux proscenium that looks like a blank canvas.

Director Jack O'Brien appears to have taken a page from Trevor Nunn's staging of last season's "Rock 'n' Roll" with overly long transitions using projections of impressionist art whose subjects hint toward the plot to come. He's also created some visual hindrances by using these same framed screens to dangle between the actors looking at the paintings and the audience. Seated in the right mezzanine, my view was not terribly blocked, but I can imagine someone paying over $100 might feel differently about this theatrical choice.

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