Did anyone go see the Spalding Gray "Leftover Stories to Tell" show at the Firehouse? It's an interesting idea and a nice tribute and the last-minute (as far as I know) addition of Scott Wichmann to the cast almost propelled me to try and figure some way to get there. In the end, a nephew's birthday celebration won out for me.
You may not notice it but the reviews I'm writing for Style these days are more often around 400 words long versus 500 words in the past. It seems that everyone is cutting back some. Those missing 100 words mean that the review for "The Constant Wife" won't be mentioning some solid supporting performances (e.g., Jill Bari Steinberg, convincing as up-and-coming businesswoman friend to Constance; Andrew Boothby, a welcome dose of energy as socially awkward Mortimer) and some excellent technical work (Sue Griffin's costumes were divine -- where DID she find Bernard's Wimbleton shoes? Got to get me a pair of those!). One hundred words doesn't seem like much but three or four sentences is often the difference between getting a mention and not.
This "Wife" was also the kind of show that makes me wish I had the 1200 words or so that a NYTimes reviewer has. There's much that could be covered with this play -- in terms of the text and in terms of this particular production -- but not much that could be explored succinctly enough to fit into 400 words. Here's a few of the things that WON'T be in my published review:
-- This is a play that takes patience. The first act is a moderately funny drawing room comedy with most of the spunk coming from Mrs. and Martha Culver (great work by Kelly Kennedy and Jen Meharg in this production). Things really start rolling in the second act and but it was only in the third act that I felt fully engaged.
-- I really try not to be too politically-correct, but I was put off by the preponderant man-bashing. Men are called everything from wicked to weak to childish in this play. I don't think I would have minded so much if a) so much of the bashing hadn't happened in the first act which was relatively slow in comparison to the rest of the play, b) it was a little more clever and c) there was even a little less of it -- after the initial point was made (and remade), it just felt like piling on.
-- You come to appreciate the depth of Constance's insight and intelligence. She is truly a remarkable character. But after the show was over, I was struck by the 'what-if' scenario. What if Mortimer hadn't brought the whole situation to a head? Would things have continued on for her and John ad infinitum? The thought that Constance might simply have turned a blind eye for several more years makes her seem less noble.
-- There was something not quite clicking for me in the chemistry between John (Steve Perigard) and Mary-Louise (Laine Satterfield). I enjoyed each of their performances separately – particularly Steve’s growing apoplection in the third act – but there wasn’t much fire or verve or even a sense of sneakiness spurring their scenes together. The way I read the play, Mary-Louise is drawn to John because he’s a bit more dashing, sophisticated and intelligent than her somewhat blunt Mortimer and John is drawn to Mary-Louise because she’s a sweet young thing, a pleasant bauble that amuses him. I left the play not knowing why exactly they had ever been attracted to each other.
-- On some more positive notes, I could have gone on at length about the beautiful set, well-appointed down to the little trees visible through the living room window. And Larry Cook’s performance was a treat, particularly his restraint in the last scene where it would have been easy for more gloat to sneak in.
The only reason I haven’t mentioned Ms. Mamana is because I was able to sneak some praise of her into my 400 words. I thought she did a great job with a part that also required significant restraint. I’ll admit I was on the fence early on in the show but, by the end, I was duly impressed. It was probably the even-handed delivery of the “go to hell” line that won me over for good.
I hope I haven’t given away too much in this rambling bit of blogness. And I hope you check out my (much shorter) review when it shows up in print.