Wednesday, March 25, 2009


A more appropriate name for this play would be Abstract, since that is the style of painting it most resembles. But even that would be giving it too much credit. Impressionism, which opened last night at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, may be set in an art gallery, but it is completely artless.

Press notes describe Impressionism, which is written by Michael Jacobs and directed by Jack O’Brien, as “the story of a world-traveling photojournalist and a New York gallery owner who discover each other, and that there might be an art to repairing broken lives.” I never would have figured that out. My reaction to the show was expressed by Katharine (Joan Allen), the gallery owner, when she said: “I don’t understand a thing.” Thomas (Jeremy Irons), the photojournalist, agreed. “I don’t either,” he says. Too bad the characters didn’t have the press notes so they would know what was going on.

Artificial dialogue is one of the problems, the biggest one actually. Another involves the memory scenes. In the one of Katharine at 6 we learn that she never wants to put her clothes on; in the Katharine at 30 flashback we meet a woman who doesn’t want to take her clothes off. What either of those incidents has to do with the middle-aged Katharine of the play’s present I have no idea. A third problem is that neither Katharine nor Thomas is interesting, appealing, sympathetic or any of the things that would make them into developed characters.

Other roles, also undeveloped, are played by Marsha Mason, AndrĂ© De Shields, Michael T. Weiss, Aaron Lazar, Margarita Levieva and Hadley Delany. 

The creative team is Scott Pask (scenic design), Catherine Zuber (costume design), Natasha Katz (lighting design), Elaine McCarthy (projection design) and Leon Rothenberg (sound design), with original music by Bob James.

O’Brien is said to have described Impressionism as a play for intelligent people of middle age. Well, I am both of those and it did nothing for me. The best part of the show, actually the only good part of the show, was the lovely projections of Impressionist paintings. I was just glad the show was only 90 minutes.

Impressionism plays through July 5 at the Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 W. 45th St. Tickets are available from, the box office or by calling (212) 239-6200. 

No comments: