Friday, February 6, 2015

A Delicate Balance (Golden Theatre)

By Harry Forbes

Edward Albee’s second most heralded play – after “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” – has returned to Broadway after a nearly 20-year absence. The 1996 Gerald Gutierrez revival was a memorable one, to be sure, with a sterling cast including George Grizzard, Rosemary Harris, and Elaine Stritch in top form.

Pam MacKinnon’s production is rather more austere in tone and less, well, enjoyable than the other. But there’s no denying the quality of the performances by yet another all-star cast and the fact that MacKinnon skillfully clarifies the play’s themes of loneliness and fear.

John Lithgow and Glenn Close (each in superlative form) are long-married couple Tobias and Agnes, and are finely matched by Bob Balaban and Clare Higgins as their unaccountably frightened neighbors Harry and Edna who announce with cheeky presumption that they are moving in with their friends permanently because of some unspoken terror.

Martha Plimpton is their much-divorced daughter Julia (now leaving husband number four) who bitterly resents the couple appropriating her room. Lindsey Duncan is Agnes’ hopelessly alcoholic sister Claire who, nonetheless, has the most empathy for the other characters’ foibles, and the uncanny ability to sort out the peculiar dynamics of the situation.

Brits Duncan and Higgins assume their American accents convincingly, the former perhaps having the edge in authority. I found myself alternately admiring and disliking Duncan’s characterization, but, on the whole, she registers on the plus side.

Plimpton provides some lively moments as Albee has given Julia some particularly dramatic moments.

Santo Loquasto has designed an impressively upper crust living room set for the affluent suburban couple, appropriately outfitted by Ann Roth, and lighted cannily by Brian MacDevitt as when, in the final act, Tobias’ late night/early morning soul searching eases into redemptive morning.

(Golden Theater, 252 W. 45th St.; or 212-239-6200)

Photo: Courtesy of Brigitte Lacombe/Philip Rinaldi Publicity

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