Friday, June 6, 2014

Grey Play?

Grey is such an insipid color.   Gloomy, but not as bleak as black. Lighter, but not as bright as white.
       I guess in some ways that describes "Grey Gardens" which Actors' Theatre opened Thursday to a packed house. In a way, grey is the very definition of depression, and that's what the story is about, a pair of "staunch" socialites who are desperate for their own creative outlet, while the men in their lives insist they be satisfied to remain in the background. Eventually they end up codependent recluses surviving "staunchly" in a "24-room litter box" deemed unfit for human habitation by the East Hampton health department.
       The situation is depressing, even bleak at times. And yet the musical has its bright moments too, Although the story focuses on the mother and daughter -- Edith and Edie -- the show features an ensemble of others who add flashy Broadway productions numbers about positive thinking and haunting cats.In my Press review, I failed to mention music director Michael Shansky, his crew of musicians and choreographer Erin Kacos. My failing, not theirs. Certainly the musical numbers lift this story out of the stagnant morass of depression that weighs down the 1975 documentary about the Edith Beale recluses.
       Designers call grey a neutral color. But no one would think of Actors' production as neutral. Far from it. It makes you want to cry or laugh or throw something. Not just sit there in neutral with no response.
        But no one would call this show fast-paced either. The first act is suspended in 1941, with the conversation slogging through swing and softshoe. It takes forever to build to the inevitable climax. Act II is stuck in the depressed 1970s where a squatter chomping down on an ear of corn passes as cause for celebration.
         This is not a play that shines on its own devices. Instead, it's an opportunity to admire the vocal and acting talent of Kathy Gibson and  Rose Anne Shansky, with strong support from several others. When Kathy is daydreaming about going round the world or or Rose Anne triumphantly declares she ate the cake she had, this play is anything but grey. They add the spark of sunshine.

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