Sunday, December 9, 2012

Palm Beach Dramaworks: A Delicate Balance (2 reviews)

Palm Beach Dramaworks opened its production of Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance on December 7, 2012
A well-to-do suburban family's life is upended when friends, seized by a nameless terror, come to live with them in this unsettling, darkly comic Pulitzer Prize-winning drama.

William Hayes directed a cast that included Maureen Anderman, Ann Bates, Dennis Creaghan, Rob Donohoe, Angie Radosh, and Laura Turnbull.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
What starts as a play about a troubled family of privilege, which keeps our attention simply because they are engagingly hyper-articulate, then ends as a shattering indictment of self-deception and hypocrisy in human interaction.

This laudable production is not for everyone, in part because Albee has written such a difficult and disturbing play, but also because Albee has created a never-flagging torrent of rich ideas passing by too quickly to savor. It’s like chugging a connoisseur-worthy wine. A smart audience member will just be grateful for the intermittent cups they can grab of the flood that rages past them.
There’s only praise due the deft direction of William Hayes and the top-flight cast led by superb performances from Maureen Anderman, Dennis Creaghan and Angie Radosh.
Anderman, a part-time West Palm Beach resident, brings every ounce of her Broadway experience and her personal connection with Albee (she starred in the original Seascape and The Lady From Dubuque.) Her skill at navigating Albee’s lush but cruelly Byzantine verbiage is amazing; she makes it seems almost effortless when it is, in fact, heavy lifting.
Creaghan’s perfectly-rendered Tobias is a reminder that when he returned here several years ago, he was an expert in playing these Brahmins, not the depraved or drunken creatures in American Buffalo, The Seafarer and A Behanding In Spokane. His Tobias is never a caricatured fuddy-duddy or snob, but someone for whom a smooth well-ordered existence is a virtue and a prize that has been earned. Creaghan skillfully slides Tobias along the play’s only character arc to agonized self-awareness, carrying us with him. It is likely Creaghan’s best work among season after season of terrific performances.
Radosh has long been one of our favorite actresses for her vitality, imagination and the unique reality that she invests in her characters... Here, she is blessed with some terrific drunken entrances including playing an accordion and some of Albee’s most cutting witticisms. Radosh finds and combines Claire’s self-disgust and intelligence as smoothly as the liquor she swills.
Bates, a New York actress, is fine as Julia, especially in her bewilderment that her parents don’t immediately throw over their friends for a blood relative’s needs. Donohoe, seen in Dramaworks’ The Pitmen Painters last season, is especially good in his penultimate scene the most inarticulate of the sextet (with Albee’s toughest syntax) struggles to hash out with Tobias what each should do.  Turnbull, simply one of the region’s best actresses, communicates Edna’s fear, but also makes convincing Edna’s seemingly presumptuous claims on the rights of a blood-related family member.

As usual, Hayes’ physical direction is nearly invisible, which allows us to focus on the words and ideas. A devotee of Albee (this is the sixth of his works at Dramaworks), Hayes has concentrated on working with the cast to successfully decipher what they can of the tortuous script. His pacing seems to be in perfect sync with Albee’s intent, which may be a bit more stately than some audiences want but is dead right for the piece.
The notoriously finicky and curmudgeonly Albee would be proud of this uncompromising edition.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:

Like Albee’s earlier Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which was recommended but passed over for the 1963 Pulitzer, A Delicate Balance is a complex three-act drama that seems to fly by. That doesn’t mean that Hayes and an extraordinarily fine cast are pushing or pacing the play too quickly. Albee has crafted a timelessly riveting piece of theater, and the Dramaworks production remains engaging start to finish.
Anderman, an experienced Albee actress with a host of Broadway credits, makes Agnes a chic, smart purveyor of vitriol. Dressed by costume designer Erin Amico in classic clothing and pearls, Anderman’s Agnes is stinging, frustrated and manipulative while maintaining a mannered veneer.
Creaghan is low-key but great as her mate, his matter-of-fact delivery amplifying the horror in Tobias’ story about an unfriendly cat. And he’s superb as he delivers Tobias’ sputtering “aria” about why his friends cannot – yet must – stay. Radosh is the play’s boozy, truth-telling life force as Claire. She is the disruptive yin to her sister’s controlling yang, and when she’s offstage, she’s missed.

Bates delivers a Julia that supplies all of the character’s juvenile, hysterical petulance, making it tough to muster any sympathy for a pampered princess who’s a serial loser at love.
A Delicate Balance is a play grounded in a specific era, place and class. But as the new Dramaworks production so amply demonstrates, this masterwork by one of the country’s greatest playwrights continues to be emotionally gripping, of-the-moment drama.
A Delicate Balance plays at Palm Beach Dramaworks through January 6, 2013.

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