The first time I saw Mary Louise Parker was in Craig Lucas’ Prelude to a Kiss in 1987 on Broadway. She was a shining star as the lead role as Rita, cast opposite Timothy Hutton. I was a high school student studying drama and she became one of my theater heroines. Over the next 10+ years, I would see her flourish on stage in Hedda Gabler, How I Learned to Drive and Proof. She has so much to offer on stage.
Funnily enough, when I saw her in 1987, I was starring in a Chekhov play as the family matriarch. Her current role in a Chekhovesque Broadway show called The Show Geese has a similar plot and she plays a similar role as a widow facing multiple dilemmas during World War 1. There is no one I could have been more anxious to see in this role and in a Manhattan Theatre Club performance to boot. MTC has a certain element of professionalism like no other and Artistic Director Lynn Meadows has impeccable taste in each element of every production. Directed by Parker’s frequent directing partner, Daniel Sullivan, I had very high hopes for this production.
Upon entrance into the theater, my eyes were instantly glued to the grand set, created by set designer John Lee Beatty. Its a country home with elegant detail. My hopes were even higher for the show.
Plus, I’ve always had a bit of a Chekhov obsession, ever since that particular role in high school. In recent years, I’ve seen The Sea Gull and The Cherry Orchard at BAM and Shakespeare in the Park and I always look forward to Chekhovesque works of art.
The Snow Geese is about a family who loses their financial status in society during the Gilded Age. Parker is a widow with two sons, played by Evan Jonifkeit and Brian Cross. One son is at University and will be soon to be off to war and is oblivious to the fact that they have been left penniless, most likely by the passing of their father just months before, the other stuck at home and more realistic in the state of affairs. Despite their financial ruin, Parker’s character insists that they gather at the start of hunting season to celebrate her dead husband’s spirit and to wish her son going off to war well, along with her sister, played by Victoria Clark, and brother-in-law, played by Danny Burstein (who I adore). Jessica Love plays Viktorya, their maid, who they still employ despite their economic difficulties and who once, seemingly, saw better days herself.
Unfortunately, not much unfolds in this 2-1/2 hour play and the actors don’t really have the kind of material to make for very interesting roles, including Parker. Clearly, the story is a commentary on the state of American consciousness and our own financial crisis and conflicts which we are reminded when Parker’s character tells her family, “There is no order in the world.” That statement can apply to today, no question, and it is easy to see why this play was potentially seen as viable and valid as part of the MTC/MCC season.
The play is also a reminder that we all have a brief period in our lifetimes to leave a mark on the world. Society exists to make us act better about our failures and learn from our mistakes. That’s one moral of the story I took home with me. But not much else. I found it to be one big snooze.
But I’m not giving up on MTC. Last year we went to see Richard Greenberg’s altogether lovelier Assembled Parties and loved it; next comes The Commons of Pensacola and Tales from Red Vienna and I will no doubt see them both.
Disclosure: I was given two tickets to facilitate this review but all opinions are my own.