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Wendy R. Williams'
Theatre Column

Larry Pine, Dennis O'Hare, Linda Emond, Zoe Caldwell and Katherine Borowitz

When Bad Plays Happens to Good Actors

Greetings Theater Lovers,

Last month was a sparse month for theater attendance. I saw only one play, Yasmina Reza’s A Spanish Play, and it looks like the day we publish, March 4, 2007, will be the last day A Spanish Play will perform at Classic Stage Company. I really wanted to see this play because the director, John Turturro, is one of my favorite actors and I had the privilege of interviewing him when he was the featured artist/director/writer of the 2006 Avignon/New York Film Festival. Also, one of the stars was the incomparable Zoe Caldwell, who totally raised the bar of what I expect from a theatrical performance when I saw her Tony Award winning performance as Maria Callas in Terrence McNally’s Master Class; she was utterly mesmerizing.

And the actors in A Spanish Play were an amazing lot: Tony Award winner Dennis O’Hare; Linda Emond (Ton Kushner’s Homebody/ Kabul); Larry Pine; and Katherine Borowitz. It was certainly a treat to simply see such a multi-talented group of thespians together on a stage under the skillful direction of Mr. Turturro.

Okay, now for the play; I barely know where to start. Basically the play is a story about a family of actors (some successful and some not) who have come to town to meet their mother’s new boyfriend (a property manager). There are two actor sisters: one at star - the other not. There is a bit of a Chekovian mood to the story and there are lots of long monologues (perhaps the reason the play attracted such a distinguished group of actors). But the story goes absolutely nowhere. Nothing happens; we just basically get to know a group of fairly unhappy people who are just as unhappy when we leave. And they talk about how unhappy they are – a lot. Poor Mr. Pine has to perform long monologues about the art of property management. Horrors!

The play does have some comic moments – the scenes where Nuria (Ms. Borowitz) tries on outfits to wear to the Spanish “Oscars”, the Goya Awards, are hysterical. And there are some very funny lines like Pilar (Ms. Caldwell) saying, “I cannot wear a frill,” and, “If you can’t say something nice, say it nicely.” Actually, I would enjoy hearing anything Ms. Caldwell would like to say.

It was a joy to see these actors and this director (Mr. Turturro and his friend Steve Buscemi were in the audience the night I saw the play). And I so wanted to like the play. But talent aside, for a play to succeed it must have a good script and unfortunately with A Spanish Play, a very talented team was wasted on bad script.

Rock on!


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