Photo by Don Kellogg

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Lady From Dubuque

As it seems is customary, egomaniac, Edward Albee has not only placed his name in the title of his play but also put his picture on the playbill cover.  He's like the Donald Trump of the play-world.  Beyond annoying.  But... I digress...

The Pershing Square Signature Center's inaugural season at the MiMa on 42nd Street contains a solid, powerful, and mysteriously eerie production of Albee's great work.

The perfectly suited two-act play reveals the backstory of the 6 neighborhood couples in all their raw glory, insecurity, and jealousies in act 1 then switches focus to the visitation by the lady from Dubuque in act 2.  Jo (Laila Robins) tears viciously into her husband, Sam, (Michael Hayden) with raw emotion - a mix of her illness, her pills, and likely just ugly truth.  Neighbors including Fred and Lucinda (C.J Wilson and Catherine Curtin) and Edgar and Carol (Thomas Jay Ryan and Tricia Paoluccio) fill in the requisite pastiche of charicitures  and stereotypes of a weak and timid husband and a ditz (Fred and Lucinda), and a drunk/racist and a floozie (Oscar and Carol).  With a cast as rich as this, the vitriol and barbs are ruthless, endless, and always on target.   Act 2 brings the visit by the mysterious Elizabeth, the lady from Dubuque (Jane Alexander) in all her impeccable power, beauty, and grace and her extremely sarcastically amusing sidekick, Oscar (Peter Francis James).

Despite Albee's unnecessary ego, the play is quite good, cuts to the quick, and is well acted.  In many ways, similar to a distant cousin, God of Carnage although superior in every way.   The set by John Arnone is opulently modern and sophisticated - including the trees in the background.  Director David Esbjornson has done his best at putting his own stamp on Albee's visceral work.