I seem to have caught something on the plane coming back from SF, so Ron saw Grey Gardens without me. Here’s his write-up:
Well, I got a chance to see Studio’s production of Grey Gardens New Year’s Day. It’s a quirky little musical, which is OK, because it’s about two quirky ladies, and their quirky relationship. I really should call this an evening of two one-act plays.
I have to be honest, I did listen to the Broadway cast album, just once, but that was quite a while ago, and I had hoped to see the show in NY, but it had closed before I could get my toosh in gear to get some tickets. Listening to the album, and hearing some folks talk about the premise of the show, and reading the reviews gave me a little bit of insight into the plot.
Barbara Walsh did a Herculean job playing both the role of the mother in the first act and the role of her daughter (albeit 30+ years later) in the second. All of the characters in the first act (which is basically a flashback to the 1941), to me, were pretty much one (or at most two) dimensional, and pretty annoying, with the exception of the two young ladies playing Jackie (Kennedy-Onasis), and Lee (Bouvier). this doesn’t seem to be the fault of either the actors, or the director, but just seemed to be the way that the characters were written.
The second act, on the other hand, presents the disturbing relationship between the mother and daughter. This is the quintessential telling of a tale of co-dependence which spirals down to great despair. Oddly, after the annoyance that I felt by the characters of the first act, I felt sympathetic to the them in the second act.
But, I do have one major quibble. When viewing rehearsals, I have to believe that directors only sat in row 6, center audience. I on the other hand was sitting in Row D, 4 rows from the stage on the left. Although the theater is fairly intimate (small), due to the blocking and the fact that the actors were not mic’d, there were whole verses of songs where the lyrics were unintelligible.
I never have a problem understanding lyrics at the multi-Helen-Hayes-award-winning Toby’s Dinner Theater, which is completely in the round. They have a good sound system, and a director who knows how to block a show for that space so that everyone feels like they are getting an equal shot at enjoying all the show. To be honest, I am a fussy audience member, since even when actors are mic’d, I dislike them acting upstage. I understand the realism, but if someone is delivering lines upstage, or to the stage left audience, and I can’t see their facial expression, I might as well be listening to a recording of the scene.
Having grumbled about all this, this still is a show that should be seen. It depicts the unfortunate life of people who were American Aristocracy, and shows us that life is not necessarily better than any one else’s.