by Margaret Croyden
Margaret Croyden is a theater reviewer and essayist for the New York Theatre Wire.
Thoughts In The Night
It is getting increasing difficult to write reviews about the Broadway season. Most of the shows are revivals that should not have been revived, and some of the new plays on the boards should not have been produced. Most difficult to evaluate are some of the actors--the female ones--that are forced to take these awful roles in awful plays.
For starters, you have the most delightful Jill Clayburgh ("A Naked Girl On the Appian Way") who has not been seen on stage or screen for more than a decade and here she is playing one of these sappy so called comedy roles. Not that she is bad, but she is capable of more. Unfortunately Richard Greenberg, an author who seems to be full of himself with phony wit allows the script to run away with platitudes and laugh lines that diminish the actor's chance for real acting or real situations. That Jill Clayburgh may have had no alternative but to take this role, is something one can not assert with certainty. But I do wish her husband, David Rabe, would write a part for her--a serious part--in his next play. At least he is a gifted writer who always has a clear point of view, and doesn't cater to the audience. At any rate, I offer this suggestion to Mr. Rabe who I admire, and hope it is worth considering.
Another actress who is slammed in "A Mother, A Daughter And a Gun," is Olympia Dukakis. Some reviewers consider her performance a cliche, a loud, upsetting performance, unworthy of her ability. Here is another example of a talented actor in a lousy play giving a lousy performance. Ms. Dukakis has a lifetime of good performances behind her; she has been the recipient of acting awards and is generally considered by the theater world as a serious actor. My question is why is this happening to these women? Is it a matter of bad taste, or is it that the theater has become a man's world? Or a world for juveniles only.
Consider the so-called biggest hit to hit Broadway. Two guys, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick-- who have created myths about themselves owing to their perfect acting team in "The Producers," have now decided to capitalize on that by playing in an old, worn out, much produced "Odd Couple." Item: each of them is reported to receive $100,000 a week!! How's that for nerve? Nice work if you can get it, most people would say. But what does that say about the theater on Broadway --a Broadway that is unsatisfied with the $100 top has now raised the tickets once again. I suppose the saying that you can never have too much money belongs in lights on Broadway--and has become the theme song for our theater.
As for the actors--well, can they afford to turn down such sums? Can they afford to take a stance against this kind of thing? And what about the producers and theater owners, the real culprits running everything? I suppose they will answer that as long as people are willing to pay more than $100 for this kind of dreck, then actors and producers will take the money and run. There are no heros on Broadway. There is only more of the same coming up. And that is a very depressing situation.
Margaret Croyden's most recent book is "Conversations With Peter Brook, 1970-2000" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
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