It's time for a Broadway update! Since returning home from a lovely white Christmas in Colorado, I've seen three Broadway shows, and they were all fabulous. In fact, I think the leading ladies from each show will be competing for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play this year. This is a strong year for plays (especially revivals). Here are my thoughts on the three I've seen in the past week:
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Scarlett Johansson won a Tony Award for her Broadway debut in A View from the Bridge a couple seasons ago (and she deserved it; her performance was stellar), and in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof she proves that she really does have some serious stage chops. I've seen quite a few famous film actors who end up flailing onstage (*cough*JuliaRoberts*cough), but Scarlett proves that she is more than comfortable in both mediums. She is a perfect Maggie. Her performance seems effortless, and she takes command of the stage with her first line and never lets go. She nails the Southern accent, and her Maggie is a force to be reckoned with. Benjamin Walker (with whom I've shared an awkward moment in an elevator) is a charming Brick and has great chemistry with Scarlett. Debra Monk is a wonderful Big Mama; her act three breakdown is emotional and tragic and moving. I didn't mind Ciaran Hinds as Big Daddy, but I did think he was the weakest link in the cast. I thought Emily Bergl did a good job making us understand an unlikeable character. The set was beautiful, and I wasn't crazy about a couple directorial choices (the ghost of Skipper appearing?), but overall I loved this production of a classic play.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
The word on the street is that this is the play to see this season, and now I know why. It transferred from Steppenwolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton as George and Martha, and I'll be very surprised if anyone can beat Tracy Letts in the Tony race for Best Actor in a Play. I think the New York Times review describes his performance well (and gives a good description of the play's impact on the audience):
"The revelation here is the performance of Tracy Letts, making an electrifying Broadway debut as an actor five years after winning a Tony Award and subsequently a Pulitzer Prize as a playwright, for August: Osage County. Under the tightrope-taut direction of Pam MacKinnon, Mr. Letts brings a coiled ferocity to George that all but reorders our responses to a play that many of us probably thought had by now vouchsafed all its surprises....It really is a tense, emotional roller coaster of a production, and I loved every second of it.
....That the night will indeed end in wholesale destruction is a given for all who know the play. But never before have I felt such a prickly sense of dread as the three acts unfolded in all their symphonic discord. Mr. Letts and Ms. Morton make clear that beneath the couple’s mechanical antagonism lies a profound emotional dependence with gnarled roots embedded deeply in love. We sense from the beginning how high the stakes are, and as we watch George and Martha perform their devilish waltz ever closer to the precipice, the tension becomes almost unbearable."
The Other Place
Laurie Metcalf is incredible. She must be so emotionally exhausted after every performance; the journey that she goes through is amazingly executed and heartbreaking. I don't want to say too much about the play in case anyone wants to see it; I can't say much without giving away important plot points that I wouldn't have wanted to know before seeing it.