The Playgoer: REVIEWERS ROUNDUP: The Constant Wife

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Friday, June 17, 2005


Playgoer introduces a new feature summing up the notices from the dailies (and whatever else is available) for prominent openings. Look for the "RR" tag for a shortcut, with links, to what the critics are saying. Playgoer doesn't want to overvalue reviews, of course. But it is part of the game.

Apologies for lack of access to the pay-only sites. When will these rags understand--their reviews belong to the public!

Headline: Roundabout's revival of The Constant Wife, a 1926 comedy by Sumerset Maughm, did not get the review they wanted from the New York Times, but other dailies are strongly enthusiastic, even if in a nostalgia-kick vein. The play is a social comedy about adultery starring Kate Burton and Lynn Redgrave.

Charles Isherwood, NY Times: You know the Roundabout's collective heart sunk (does it have one?) at the early paragraph: "Broadway has been in the reupholstering business for a long time, but producers do not often forage deeply in the antiques fair of theatrical history for material as obscure as this to restore to the repertory." He's all over Kate, but basically dismisses the play for its "manicured language" while also accusing the production for distracting from the chatter with bits of physical farce. (Between this and Cherry Orchard Isherwood sure seems awfully pricly about physical comedy these days.)

Clive Barnes, NY Post: The Brit-born Barnes welcomes the old warhorse, but acknowledges it would seem a "dangerously old vintage" if not for director Mark Brokaw's "adroit new bottling." Brokaw and Burton save the day, for Barnes, overcoming overacting in the supporting roles (by Michael Cumpsty and John Dossett) and an "ugly" set of "Chinoiserie."

Howard Kissel, NY Daily News: Also finds new value in the play, "stimulating as well as enormously entertaining." Loves the set. Loves Cumpsty and Dossett. Gets extra points for fitting in the word "flibbertigibbet."

Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal: Online Journal is pay-only, so go see for yourselves if you subscribe. He does give away his lede for free on his ArtsJournal blog About Last Night,
basically praising the play as "Henrik Ibsen rewritten by Oscar Wilde."

Helen Shaw, New York Sun: Again pay-only. (Blast that NY Sun. Some of the best arts coverage in the city and yet so stingy!) So far, her lede also reflects some interest in Maughm's text, for its "rather refreshing view of the hoary institution" of marriage. (For more, just get out of the house and pay the 25 cents at the newsstand, I say.)

Anyone see this show for themselves yet? Hit "Comment"!

CORRECTION (1:30pm): Sorry, but I was mistaken earlier in saying the Times review was by Brantley. It's not. I have since amended.

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