Monday, October 20, 2008

The Fourposter


By Jan de Hartog, Directed by Blake Lawrence. The Clurman Theatre. (CLOSED)

(Critic-O-Metered by Isaac Butler)

Apart from the Siegels at Talkin' Broadway, there's not a lot of love to be had for Keen Company's revival of Jan de Hartog's vintage play about marriage, which originally starred Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy. Most of the reviews have a certain fondness for the script but are not so happy about the production, particularly its lead actors.

Talkin' Broadway A
(Barbara & Scott Siegel) The charming, marriage-affirming two-hander, The Fourposter, has been revived by the Keen Company with delightful performances by Todd Weeks and Jessica Dickey and nicely understated direction by Blake Lawrence.

TalkinBroadway B-
(Matthew Murray) It's because the play still sparkles as brightly today as it must have in 1951, when married couple Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy originated the roles of married couple Michael and Agnes, that the current Keen Company revival at the Clurman Theatre so frustrates. You're treated in the script to a thoroughly charming scrapbook of occasionally rocky long-term togetherness, from the day Michael and Agnes move into their house to the day they move out, that's only rarely animated by the performers (Todd Weeks and Jessica Dickey), the direction (by Blake Lawrence), and the set design (by Sandra Goldmark).

Variety C+
(Mark Blankenship) In accordance with the troupe's mission, Jan de Hartog's 1951 dramedy is both sincere and sophisticated, wittily tracking 35 years in a couple's marriage. Director Blake Lawrence, however, gets so enamored of the play's period setting she fails to tap its honesty. Her production is more of a museum piece than the script.

NY Times C
(Neil Genzlinger) Charming in a sturdy sort of way; no fancy reimaginings or other modern interjections here. That means that you can just let the story slip pleasantly by while pondering the great mystery forever linked to it: This thing won the best-play Tony Award?...Probably it helped that in 1951 the play starred Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn...Jessica Dickey and Todd Weeks aren't compelling enough to make you forget the original actors...but they're better than what you might get in community theater, where "The Fourposter" crops up now and again.

Time Out C
(Garrett Eisler) Like its later musical version I Do, I Do, this 1951 rom-com works best as a vehicle for two actors to show their range as they appear to age before our eyes. Jessica Dickey and Todd Weeks certainly endear themselves to us...Blake Lawrence's direction, however, too often gives in to the period piece's stuffy formality rather than either bringing it down to earth or else heightening the restricting effects of Victorian mores...Like the old piece of furniture itself: well-carpentered and sturdy, but not a site of much passion or excitement.

Back Stage C-
(Gwen Orel) A two-character, one-set play demands two actors of great charm and appeal, not to mention chemistry. De Hartog was not a particularly witty writer; the humor lies in character and setup. But Todd Weeks as the slightly pompous aspiring writer Michael, and Jessica Dickey as his wife, the fussy, perfectionist, and essentially idealistic Agnes, just don't pull this off...The audience was so full of seniors when I attended that at one point the play was held to reduce feedback from hearing aids. Even this audience of nostalgic friends rarely laughed.

TheaterMania D+
(David Finkle) This 75-minute two-hander is so featherweight that it would have been considered retrograde had it shown up as segments on the 1970s television series Love American-Style. Today, it simply disappears like an exhaled breath.

CurtainUp D+
(Elyse Sommer) Jessica Dickey and Todd Weeks are competent actors, but they fail to project that special chemistry needed to bring out the things only hinted at in its six boudoir interludes. Dickey is too shrill during the first night scene though she does inhabit the part more fully as the marriage moves through its high and low point. Weeks also grows into the part of the unbearably demanding, self-absorbed but loving Michael. It's too bad that Dickey and Weeks move through the crises and reconciliations of their 35-year marriage without really digging between the mannered surface of these particular characters. Ultimately, the blame for this revival's failing to be either funny or touching must be borne by the director.

TalkinBroadway A 13; TalkinBroadway B- 9; Variety C+ 8; NY Times C 7; Time Out C 7; Back Stage C- 6; TheaterMania D+ 5; CurtainUp D+ 5; TOTAL = 60 / 8 = 7.5 = C/C+

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