I never write reviews but, last night my lovely wife Carol and I saw The Waverly Gallery
As some of you know, I try to avoid Broadway because it’s so commercial. Soooo many musicals (not a fan) and the straight plays too often have stars crammed in them that simply don’t belong there.
However, Carol knows that I am a big fan of Elaine May so she took the risk and bought tickets. And...
This is one of the best plays I’ve ever seen.
Let me start with the writing. Kenneth Lonergan has written a play that is touching, topical and hilarious. I didn’t expect this much humor in a play with such serious subject matter. However the perfectly written humor is treated with incredible sensitivity.
The dialogue is like multiple ping-pong matches being played simultaneously all coming together somehow into beautiful music.
That speaks not only to Mr. Lonergan’s writing but to Lila Neugebauer’s skillful directing. How rare and wonderful it is when a director honors the music of the dialogue as well as staging a beautiful production. You could see Ms Neugebauer’s work, in that you couldn’t see Ms Neugebauer’s work. She did so much to give the audience the gift of a beautiful, seem-less experience. I came away with an intense respect for her as a director.
Because I’m already in an unabashed fan I’m going to save Elaine May (who did not disappoint) until the end. Spoiler… I’m gonna gush.
Lucas Hedges didn’t connect with the audience, he connected with just me… said everyone in the audience. Casual and warm he confides in us, one on one, like an old friend and establishes a real connection in a way that only actors with rare talent can achieve.
One of the greatest actors of our generation… not once in this production does Joan Allen “act.” Throughout the play, Ms Allen is living in beautiful reaction. Every moment as raw and in-the-moment as if it was happening for the first time.
David Cromer as Howard embodies the dry wit and patience that holds this family together. He played Howard like many real Howard’s I have known... a real likable mensche of even temperament and good humor.
Michael Cera does not appear in this play, no matter what they tell you. His character, Don Bowman, is unlike anything I’ve ever seen him do before. He is every dreamer to ever come to New York, with none of the cliches. I’ve always liked Mr. Cera’s work and he outdoes himself in the quiet humanity he brings to his character.
Ok. Elaine May.
Fully and truly in the moment.
Elaine May is perfect.
Every moment of the play is in reaction to her actions. She hasn’t just mastered Mr. Lonergan’s complex dialogue, she embodies it.
If we don’t understand and love this character, the play would fall apart. In a lesser actor’s hand, this character could become incomprehensible but we followed every moment with rapt attention.
Did I mention that Elaine May is perfect?
Look, you don’t get to write about Elaine May without using the words “National Treasure.” In The Waverley Gallery she gives us one of the most wonderful performances of her career… Which is saying a lot.
If you don’t see this play you are missing out. Go see it. Then call me. We'll go out for a slice of pie and talk about it.