|Heather Lind & Blythe Danner in The Blue Deep|
Boyle has a genuine feel for the way people relate to each other in the day-to-day, an important and underrated skill. You believe in all five of the characters, including Grace’s close friends Charlie (Jack Gilpin) – who was Bill’s oldest and closet buddy – and his wife Bertie (Becky Ann Baker), and the young landscaper, Jamie (Finn Wittrock), who arrives to remove a dead tree from Grace’s yard and stays to ask Lila out. Boyle writes mock-erotic banter for Charlie and Roberta that reads as a series of grace notes commenting on the solidity and give of a good marriage. And Amy Herzog, whose 4000 Miles I reviewed here two weeks ago, should take a look at the scenes between Lila and Jamie, which demonstrate an understanding of young women and men and their screwed-up attempts to make romantic connections.
|Heather Lind & Finn Wittrock|
|director Bob Balaban|
The entire cast is terrific. Lind’s and Wittrock’s work here reinforces my positive first impressions of them in, respectively, the Al Pacino Merchant of Venice (Lind played Jessica) and the recent Broadway revival of Death of a Salesman (Wittrock played Happy). Wittrock is particularly charming as the unassuming townie who’s working, not very happily, in his dad’s landscaping business before returning to Yale to complete his Masters in forestry – and whose concern for the environment prompts him to carry around his drinking water in an inconvenient glass bottle. Baker and Gilpin, two of the most effortlessly skillful character actors around, give delightfully offhand performances. And not surprisingly, Danner, outfitted by Mimi O’Donnell in summer clothes that accentuate both her throwaway aristocratic style and her marvelous bone structure, is glorious. In one scene Charlie tells an anecdote about a mushroom trip he and Bill took together in Baja when they were young men; in another Lila begins to cry as she recalls her father. In both these moments Danner makes Grace’s face look like a mask pulled so tight over her unwelcome emotions that she’s in physical discomfort. “OK, OK, it was bad for us,” she admits reluctantly to her daughter, “but let’s not dwell” – and you get the sense that she wants to pull herself out of her skin. Then, when she falls apart in act two, Danner gets to pull out all the stops. I first saw Danner on stage in her breakthrough role in Butterflies Are Free on Broadway when I was a college student and I’ve been in thrall to her ever since. Those of us who live close enough to the Berkshires to attend Williamstown shows regularly were fortunate in being able to see her act there summer after summer in the eighties and nineties. Nowadays her live performances are rarities, but she’s still, I think, our greatest stage actress. The Blue Deep has much to recommend it, but the fact that it showcases Danner would in any case be more than enough reason to celebrate.
|James Macdonald's production of Mike Bartlett's Cock|
– Steve Vineberg is Distinguished Professor of the Arts and Humanities at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he teaches theatre and film. He also writes for The Threepenny Review, The Boston Phoenix and The Christian Century and is the author of three books: Method Actors: Three Generations of an American Acting Style; No Surprises, Please: Movies in the Reagan Decade; and High Comedy in American Movies.