Sunday, February 20, 2011

The New York Idea

"The New York Idea" presented by Atlantic Theater Company at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, January 30, 2011

I'm not sure if it's the play itself, or just this latest adaptation by David Auburn, but Langdon Mitchell's premise of a divorced woman, newly engaged to a divorced man was better told by the prolific Phillip Barry in The Philadelphia Story, which premiered on Broadway some six years after The New York Idea's last revival.  One can't help but wonder if Mr. Barry had seen that production.

Set in 1906, Mr. Mitchell's work plods through the unseemliness of divorce at the time, punctuated by the dithering and frowns of the mother and aunt of the groom.  The result is an evening of theatrical fluff, verging on lint.

The cast is up for the game and make noble if unsuccessful efforts to breathe life into the stodgy plot.  As Cynthia Karslake (the divorced bride-to-be), Jaime Ray Newman is perky, but trapped.  Jeremy Shamos's John Karslake, her ex, comes across as mostly embarrassed to be caught up in the proceedings, and not from just his character's perspective.

The most fun to be had is by Francesca Faridany as Vida Phillmore, the groom's ex-wife.  Coming from her recent turn in the title role of Orlando at Classic Stage Company, she gives her best take on a nouveau vamp, bohemian and "modern."  It demonstrates a nice departure from her previous role.

Set designer Allen Moyer gives us a luscious and efficient, Austrian-shade draped set with a rotating collection of fireplaces to represent each location.  Michael Krass' gowns are beautiful.

If only the visual production were enough to make all this effort worthwhile.  The New York Idea runs through February 26.

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