Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Grey Gardens

Portland Center Stage **Photo credit: Owen Carey**
May 26 - June 21, 2009

Review by peanutduck

A concept – two cat ladies and how they got that way – in search of story, reason for audience to care. Act One: Bereft of honest emotion or motivated action; with cringe-worthy dancing, centipede-patterned wallpaper, perplexing lighting intentions. Act Two: Carried by Rebecca Eichenberger’s staunch, egoistical, bewildered Little Edie – fantastic performance.


Anonymous said...

delightful set.

and that's where the good ends.

not one remarkable song in the bunch.

i could not wait for it to end.

the question one is left is simply: why would anyone want to do this show?

for not one moment did i forget about the outside world.

and now for the nit picks:

the program listed no orchestra, even though there was one, and it also omitted any listing of the songs --- a first, for me anyway.

the opening set piece is a beautifully distressed facade ---- every detail perfection --- the ivy, the roofing, the siding, the windows, all fallen into disrepair ---- a work of art, really.
and then, right there on the screen door is a brand new, brass, mirror-bright, fully laquered door knob.
it doesn't appear to have been a choice --- it appears to have been an error.
and it kinda was a portent for the show in general --- it was an error.

had the 2nd act come first, it might have been watchable.

as this was considered a hit in NYC, i fear for the future of musicals, i do.

Anonymous said...

It could have been intentional. Jackie Onassis dumped a lot of money into making the place livable three years before the events of the show.

But it was more likely a screwup.

Anonymous said...

I agree... the "live" musicians backstage help make this piece come to life... and they are top notch players... with strings!!! There should have been an insert or board in the lobby listing the players!

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen the show, so I'm curious ...

Are there really live musicians used in this production?

If so, the musicians are backstage, unseen AND uncredited? Ouch.

It's a MUSICAL, right? Isn't that kind of like having Juliet play the entire show from backstage?

I never understand when theatres do musicals without showcasing the musicians.

Anonymous said...

I don't have the program in front of me, but a quick Google finds Rick Lewis and Reece Marshburn credited in their roles of musical director and conductor/assistant musical director, respectively. As to the orchestra's placement, I've never heard both music and lyrics more clearly in my life. Casi Pacilio's sound design is genius. As to seeing the band, while it's lovely, the point is to *hear* them. Go to the show -- I bet you'll agree -- the nuance, power, and partnership that Rick, Reece, Casi, the orchestra and the singers have created, in many ways largely due to placement, is wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Touche .... While I personally prefer the orchestra to be seen*and*heard, I will concede that the ultimate point is to *hear* the orchestra -- and the singers, for that matter -- and there indeed have been too many a time when an orchestra in the pit overshadowed actors onstage even with mics.

But I still would hope that musicians (especially those performing live) are named and bio'd in the program equally with the other artists who collaborated on the project.

Anonymous said...

i think the reason they did not have room for the musicians in the program is that ad revenues are down, so there are fewer pages.

Anonymous said...

Suck it up then, Jesus! Give the musicians the respect they deserve!

Anonymous said...

amen to that.

Anonymous said...

once again pcs subscribers have been hoodwinked.
how many more mediocre mish mashes of mayhem will they endure, before they invest in something better?

Anonymous said...

Usually in professional shows, the orchestra is named, but it is very unusual for them to have bios. Also, lots of shows put the band backstage/out of sight to not conflict with the world/story they are creating on stage. It is not to overshadow the talent of the band.

Very excited to see the show!

Anonymous said...

I think these characters are fascinating, and I can't wait to see the show. Any more insights as to how the actors brought them to life, how the show looked/felt as a whole, blah blah blah? I'm interested.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Some really fantastic performances cannot save this truly terrible musical. How on earth was this ever a hit?

I always assumed that songs in a musical should either develop characters and relationships or in some way further the themes of the story ... or at the very least be entertaining. The songs in Grey Gardens do none of these things. Some, like "Marry Well Little Girls" and "Jerry Likes My Corn" are downright gringe inducing and actually painful to watch.

I've seen the documentary on which the musical is based. It has the crumbling and over-ripe Gothic feel of a good Tennessee Williams play and the aching longing and bitter comedy of Anton Checkhov. This musical captures absolutely none of that. There may be a decent play to be culled from the second act (the first act is as pointless as it is boring - imagine High Society if no one was charming or funny and the music all sucked) but Grey Gardens is not that play.
I don't know what the Oregonian was thinkng but they lost a lot of credibility with me on this one. The couples on both sides of me opening night both left at intermission. The tickets are $60. Need I say more?

I'm not going to slam Chris Coleman for this (other than questioning his picking it in the first place) or the poor people at PCS. They've suffered enough this season and I don't think there is any way a silk purse could have been made from this pig's ear.

Again, the three leading actresses are really fantastic performers. I wish I could reccommend the show on their performances alone but I can't. I spent most if the second act wishing I was seeing them all in a better musical.

Anonymous said...

"I don't know what the Oregonian was thinkng but they lost a lot of credibility with me on this one."

Well said.

Well said.

Anonymous said...

Having Coleman captian PCS is like having him command the Titanic.
It is the grandest ship ever built, but he just keeps steering it right into the icebergs.
Again and again and again.
If only he would go down with the ship.

Anonymous said...

I went into to this musical being a bit skeptical as I loved the documentary so much. Surprisingly, I was blown away. The acting was incredible by the whole cast. The story actually gives a glimpse into the lives of these women when there was still some hope and at the same time shows glimmers of cracks beginning. I thought the musical brought to light many things about diminished dreams and the intense and complicated relationships that can happen between mother and daughter. I also felt that the musical stayed true to the tone of the documentary and the quirkiness and sometimes wisdom of these women. I guess it is not a story for everyone, but I for one will be going to see it again.

Anonymous said...

where are the 52 cats?
surely there is some clever way to theatricalize them....

Carrie said...

Yes, cats would have been fun. ;-) And they did begin to add a paper insert listing the musicians' names.
I loved the show. Haven't been that thrilled with other recent PCS offerings, but this was quite wonderful. Acting and vocals were fantastic all around. And those darling little girls as the Bouvier sisters! What pipes! The night I went, there was what was obviously an emergency replacement of Big Edie in Act II, as Sharonlee McLean read from the script. But she did a bang-up job, and I can tell you that it was barely noticeable (at least my mom didn't notice until halfway in).

Kudos to all! We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!

Anonymous said...

"And they did begin to add a paper insert listing the musicians' names."

Should have been in the program from the beginning...sad. Out of sight, out of mind. Poor form, PCS.

"...there was what was obviously an emergency replacement of Big Edie in Act II, as Sharonlee McLean read from the script."

Did they not announce it over the PA, just spring it on the audience?

Anonymous said...

I saw the Wednesday, June 10 performance with Sharonlee McLean standing in, and there was a large sign outside the doors as you entered the theater. Also that day the insert with the musicians had Sharonlee's bio on it.