Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Orphans' Home Cycle (Part II)


By Horton Foote. Directed by Michael Wilson. At the Signature Theater Through March 27th

Bigger really is better Off-Broadway this holiday season. With reviews ranging from an ecstatic A+ to a respectful B, the second installment of Horton Foote's The Orphans' Home Cycle has opened to universal acclaim for its staging and its 22-person cast, particularly lead Bill Heck and Horton Foote's daughter, Hallie. The sole complaint (which comes up in several reviews) is that, in trying to edit the nine plays in the cycle down to an hour each, the pieces feel a bit truncated and abrupt.

NY Daily News A+
(Joe Dziemianowicz) The real reason Foote's drama is so big and important is because it's so exquisitely realized — the writing, acting, direction and design. So far, it's a home run for its presenters, the Signature Theatre Company and Hartford Stage.

The Faster Times A+
(Jonathan Mandell) The three plays of “The Story of A Marriage” — “The Widow Claire,” “Courtship,” and “Valentine’s Day” — are in their plain underplayed way so engaging, so moving, that at several moments it can be hard to avoid the embarrassing spectacle of quietly crying in your seat at the Peter Norton Space of the Signature Theater Company. Beware of such a moment, for example, in the speech where the normally taciturn Horace finally opens up, saying lines like “I am no orphan, but I think of myself as an orphan, belonging to no one but you.”... Something extraordinary.

Wall Street Journal A+
(Terry Teachout) The second part of The Orphans' Home Cycle, Horton Foote's family album of plays about a turn-of-the-century Texas family and its struggles with the coming of modernity, has just opened at Signature Theatre Company. It upholds the immeasurably bright promise of the first installment. Not since Tom Stoppard's "The Coast of Utopia" has so self-evidently significant a large-scale theatrical endeavor come to New York.

TalkinBroadway A+
(Matthew Murray) “Intense” is not a word typically associated with the plays of Horton Foote. But when discussing the second chapter of the Signature Theatre Company’s production of The Orphans’ Home Cycle, none other will do. It’s not just that “The Story of a Marriage,” as it’s delightfully, deceptively titled, is riveting, though it is. Nor is it that it’s leaps and bounds better than the first part of the trilogy, which was already one of the finest evenings of theatre New York had seen in 2009, though against all odds it is. It’s that Foote has captured so many searing emotions and instances of raw-rubbing truth that this gone-in-a-blink three-hour outing isn’t at all about its ostensible subject, the ever-seeking Horace Robedaux (Bill Heck). It’s all about you.

North Jersey A
(Robert Feldberg) There were affecting moments in the first three plays, as young Horace moved around among relatives without complaint, but the works were uneven, and, since the leading character was essentially acted upon, somewhat lacking in drama....The plays are superbly acted by a large cast, and have been directed by Michael Wilson with uncommon sensitivity.

NYPost A
(Elisabeth Vincentelli) Rarely has everyday life been so modestly inspiring as it is in Foote's hands. The worst part is that we have to wait another month to see how it all ends.

Backstage A
(Erik Haagensen) Horton Foote's epic nine-play cycle about early-20th-century life in the small fictional town of Harrison, Texas, continues on its winning way. The three plays making up Part Two follow Horace Robedaux into his early adulthood, marriage, and incipient fatherhood, and there's not a wasted moment in them. As with Part One, three hours fly by as this utterly engaging and deeply compelling work unfolds.

On Off Broadway A
(Matt Windman) The Signature Theatre's noteworthy production, which presents the nine plays over three evenings, features 22 actors playing over 70 roles. Directed with cinematic finesse by Michael Wilson, the epic effort displays the gentle playwright at his very best. When other playwrights abandoned traditional storytelling in the mid-20th century, Foote devoted his writing to detailed, complex characters from the viewpoint of his Texas hometown....The entire cast is superb, especially Bill Heck as the forlorn but resilient Horace. But it is the playwright's daughter Hallie Foote, often considered the foremost interpreter of his work, who truly stands out in a wide variety of roles.

NYTimes B+
(Ben Brantley) Directed by Michael Wilson with assured understatement, and acted by a consistently convincing and versatile repertory cast, these plays flow with a sense of everyday life accelerated, moving by us in a blur of dramatic happenings lodged in the fine grit of the ordinary. The stories swapped here include tales of madness, alcoholism, suicide and deaths in childbirth.

Associate Press B+
(Michael Kuchwara) Horace Robedaux continues his journey into adulthood in Part 2 of "The Orphans' Home Cycle," Horton Foote's masterful examination of one man's life in small-town Texas in the first decades of the 20th century.

Theatermania B+
(Dan Bacalzo) There are moments in the script, particularly in Valentine's Day, that teeter on the brink of sentimentality. But Foote wisely undercuts this with a dark sense of humor, as well as a lingering sadness that makes whatever joy the characters experience seem, at best, bittersweet. Foote also includes some odd non-sequiturs in his dialogue that relieves the tension in certain moments, and provides several laughs, as well.

New Jersey Newsroom B
(Michael Sommers) Having written the nine full-length dramas in this cycle at various times during his career, Foote had virtually completed adapting them into hour-long versions for this new three-part epic when he died last March at the age of 92. A lurking suspicion that Foote may have edited his work somewhat too sharply is confirmed by viewing this second group of plays. People abruptly go off to events and improbably return even faster. Gossipy tales are whittled to their essentials.

GRADES:NYDN A+ 14; TFT A+ 14; WSJ A+ 14; TB A+ 14; NYP A 13; NJ A 13; BS A 13; OOB A 13; NYT B+ 11; AP B+ 11; TM B+ 11; NJNR B 10; TOTAL: 151/12 =12.58 (A)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Guys, your math is off. There are 11 reviews here, not 10; 138/11 is 12.55, somewhere between an A and A-.