PLAYBILL THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Oct. 27-Nov. 2: The Tragedy of Hurricane Sandy

By Robert Simonson
02 Nov 2012

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Jessica Chastain
photo by Joan Marcus

Broadway managed to get on track again quickly enough to offer one opening. The latest revival of Henry James' "Washington Square" tale — known on the stage as The Heiress but Ruth and Augustus Goetz — was unveiled on Nov. 1, with Jessica Chastain, Dan Stevens, David Strathairn and Judith Ivey, directed by Moises Kaufman.

Reviews were mixed-to-positive, with critics focusing, as is perhaps only natural with this play, on Chastain's performance as Catherine Sloper, the unloved, young, 19th-century-New York woman who is treated unkindly by both father and suitor. Many dwelled on the process by which the lovely film star rendered herself homely. "Full credit goes to Chastain, who has buried herself in dullness to play one of theatre's more formidable proto-feminist roles," said the AP.

But others, including the New York Times — which mocked the production as a bit of "Masterpiece Theatre" — were under-impressed with the actress. "An underpowered Jessica Chastain, hampered by questionable directorial choices, dilutes the emotional impact of this nonetheless compelling melodrama," wrote the Hollywood Reporter. "This is juicy, high-toned melodrama, and for the most part, stylishly executed. It's possible that, as the run progresses, Chastain might find more secure footing, placing a bolder stamp on the central role to capture the spark that’s currently missing." (Audiences are loving it, though: gasping in all the right places.)



Others didn't mind being treated to a well-upholstered production at all. "Moises Kaufman's masterfully helmed production is everything you want from a Class A revival," observed Variety. "As is proper for a costume drama, the costumes are mouthwatering. The set is just as scrumptious, and the cast seems entirely comfortable speaking the language and thinking the thoughts of people from a bygone era." The Post added that, "the play itself takes care of the rest, carrying us along like the well-crafted yarn it is. They don’t write 'em like this anymore." While the Wall Street Journal echoed, "The Heiress is so fine a play that it is capable of making a strong impression even in a flawed production. That's what happens here."

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There was movement for the stalled musical project Finding Neverland. Harvey Weinstein told the New York Times that he is hopeful that the new Scott Frankel-Michael Korie-Allan Knee musical will play the West End in 2013 prior to a Broadway arrival next season.

The $11 million musical is based on the Academy Award-nominated 2004 film of the same title. Rob Ashford directs and choreographs Finding Neverland, which premiered Sept. 22 at the Curve Theatre in Leicester. It ended its run there Oct. 18.

Broadway After the Storm

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