Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New Review: The American Plan

For New York Press.

Here's the tease:

Sometimes she's still, but no doubt she’s listening. Sometimes she’s hard on a cane, but sturdy enough that you wonder if she needs it. Sometimes her eyes grow and her eyebrows arch so high they recall the design of an ancient Roman viaduct. These are among the more remarkable and memorable qualities of Mercedes Ruehl as imperious, impetuous Eva, a mercurial and cyclonic life force in The American Plan, Manhattan Theatre Club’s revival of the 1990 Richard Greenberg play. Yet mercury can be neutralized; cyclones fizzle into clouds. When that happens, what remains is a play less smart, clean and wise than it seems.

By 1960, when The American Plan mostly occurs, Eva, who escaped Hitler’s Germany, has opted for a variation on the assimilation standard of many postwar Jews: She summers in the Catskills, but in her own home, not at the Concord, the Nevele or Grossinger’s. Evoked wispily by Jonathan Fensom’s scenic design, Eva’s home sits across a lake from one such hotel; it’s by swimming across such a lake that a squarejawed Adonis, Nick Lockridge, played by the enviably cheekboned Kieran Champion, arrives at the dock. There he meets Lily, Eva’s striking daughter played by Lily Rabe, but their dialogue is less cutesy than weird.

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