Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Country Girl

This is an entertaining play. I had never read or seen it, or even seen the 1954 movie starring Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby. For some reason, it’s been more than 30 years since the last major New York production of Clifford Odets’s backstage drama about a troubled marriage and the demands of show business.

Unfortunately, the relationship between Georgie, played by Frances McDormand, and her actor husband, Frank Elgin (Morgan Freeman), never seemed believable. Not only could I not see any love between them now, as Frank tries for a theatrical comeback while battling the alcoholism that ended his once brilliant career, but I couldn’t imagine they had ever loved each other. There was no spark, no connection between them.

This is a contrast to another 1950s era revival, Come Back, Little Sheba, which I saw in January. That play also had an alcoholic husband and a lonely wife in a stale marriage, but in the hands of Kevin Anderson and S. Epatha Merkerson I could feel a glimmer of the love that had been between them, and believed that a little of it was still there. I didn’t get that at all from Freeman and McDormand in this production directed by Mike Nichols.

Peter Gallagher is competent as Bernie Dodd, the hotshot director who offers Frank a major role, although his is really a stock character -- the high-strung theatre man obsessed with an idea.

I hope it doesn’t take another three decades for The Country Girl to come back to Broadway. It’s already waited too long for its comeback attempt and it deserves to succeed.

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