Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Country House @ The Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

In the midst of tragedy and heartache, we can find ourselves focused inward in a way, which to the outside observer, seems ridiculously narcissistic, but in fact, is a survival mechanism- some things are just too painful to feel. Blythe Danner (Butterflies Are Free) as Anna Patterson, joins her family at the anniversary of her daughter’s death of cancer in The Country House by Donald Margulies. Ms. Danner elegantly walked that fine line of self-respect with vulnerability and self-centered, emotional detachment, demonstrating a sublime womanness.
Playing her funny and sassy, college-age grand-daughter, Susie, is Sarah Steele (Slowgirl). There was a fun and authentic play between the senior and junior actors. She will be a fun one to watch. Her deceased mother’s brother, Uncle Elliot, is played by Eric Lange (“Weeds”). He courageously dove right off the cliff and into the abyss of self-loathing, taking us with him and everyone else too, including his brother-in-law Walter Keegan, played by David Rasche (Lunch Hour), blockbuster movie maker who has “sold out” and ended up with the money and the girl. The girl just so happens to be the one Elliot has always wanted, Nell McNally. Katie Jennings Grant (The Lyons) had a difficult task. It cannot be easy to be “the replacement” to a woman who had been loved and adored by all but she utilizes grace and humility to do so with aplomb. And in the midst of this family chaos is the dashing Michael Astor played by Daniel Sunjata (Cyrano de Bergerac) who was loved by three generations of women in this family and envied by the men. You walk away knowing he and Walter will of course be the happiest in life as they are the ones who merely skim the surface and can always be found on top.
Daniel Sullivan (The Snow Geese) took us on a difficult journey, peppering it with laughter and joy. And isn’t that life anyway- an attempt to find meaning and joy amidst the confusion and disappointments? John Lee Beatty (Knock Knock) did scenic design; lighting was done by Peter Kaczorowski (Tales From Red Vienna); a fantastic costumer, Rita Ryack (Casa Valentina) and sound designer Obadiah Eaves (The Assembled Parties).The original music was done by Peter Golub (The Hieress). Fight director…yes there is a fight was Thomas Schall (This Is Our Youth) and the stage manager was Danny Maly (Casa Valentina).
Put on by Manhattan Theatre Club, one of the leading nonprofit producers of contemporary theatre, Opening Night was October 2nd at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre and will be playing through November 23rd.

Review By: Michele Seven
Photos By: Joan Marcus

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