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May 02 2011

Stage Door: Marisa Tomei vs.Julianne Moore

Stage Doorwill now be a weekly Tuesday series featuring Nathaniel's (or other contributors') theatrical adventures and,as often as possible,how they do connect or could connect with the cinema.So pardon this Monday entry,and subsequent double dip,but 'tis the season;we'll do this again tomorrow for the Tony Award Nominations!But today...a few notes onMarie & Bruce,the current revival of the playwith Marisa Tomei (it closes this coming weekend) and the movie version with Julianne Moore.

I mentioned the play briefly before.It opens with Marie and Bruce in bed.Marie is unable to sleep and proceeds to talk herself in circles,spewing bile towards her sleeping husband whom she apparently hates and plans to leave that very day.She tells us about his prized typewriter which she threw away and complains that it's a hot summer,they've both had the flu,and neither of them have jobs.After she wakes him,she emasculates him repeatedly while he tries to make coffee and dress for a lunch date.You get the sense that she's Martha but he'snotGeorge  --- a one sidedVirginia Woolf(not that this play is a qualitative match but,then again,what is?).Instead of fighting back,he merely says "well darling"this and "well darling"that,smothering her with verbal affection which she returns with mocking bile.

The play is staged superbly in its current revival with a gorgeously flexible set which,with only minor adjustments,acts as the couple's bedroom,the dining room of a friend's party,and a romantic cafe.(It's basically a mini three-act play performed without intermission.  Both Marie and Bruce are hard to get to know but you still feel for them since they seem so ill at ease in all three environments.Or at least Marie does.The constant fourth-wall breaking monologues,which generally feel natural in theater settings and too affected in movies (andMarie and Bruceis no exception),help win you over to the harsh characters.

Throughout the entire second act,the party,you become privy to snippets of conversations from each partygoer.It's the best part of the play,staged ingeniously with a rotating set as if you're circling the party and drifting from conversation to conversation as people actually do at parties.Strangely,or perhaps ingeniously,the key to Marie's character seems to be one of these offhand conversations.

In the movie version,Marie (Julianne Moore) seems entirely stoned during the party sequence -- not just confused about her own feelings -- but she leans in to this particular party profundity (monday monologue alert!),bewildered but cognizant that she shouldunderstand it.And feels immediately sick thereafter.

Woman at Party:I understand what you're saying but isn't it possible for sometimes people to not feel what they actually do feel?Do you know what i mean?

I mean they may actually feel a certain thing but they don't really know that they do because
in their own conscience minds they're so incredibly involved in what they think that they feel that they don't really feel the thing at all.Do you see what i'm saying?

I mean like,for example,a very common example is when you're supposed to feel pleased by something thing like when somebody gives you a present and you're supposed to feel pleased but actually you don't because the thing is something that  actually you hate or you actually already have the thing.But you're not supposed to say 'Well,I really hate this.' You're supposed to say 'oh boy that's great I really like it.'

Julianne Moore has always had a gift with neurosis and her best characterizations tends to involve women who are lost to themselves through self delusion,mental illness,or societal mores (See: Amber Waves,Cathy Whitaker,Carol White,Laura Brown,etcetera).In theory Marie -- whoseemsvery decisive only to gradually reveal herself to be confused and paralyzed -- is a perfect match for her gifts but it's actually Marisa Tomei who wins this round.It helpsa lotthat her vehicle is better all around and has more precise ideas about how Marie will interact with the audience;the movie can't seem to make up its mind about how much of a storyteller Marie should be or whether or not she should stare directly at the camera and break the fourth wall.But there is something in Tomei's gabby everywoman sensuality,and instant relatability that trumps the character's offputting nature.Marie is still an incredibly unhappy woman spreading her misery around -- Tomei doesn't sugarcoat it -- but she's somehow more sympathetic.Moore,with her inarguable star allure is maybe too much of apresence-- unwittingly closing the already impenetrable character off even further.

The play:B;The movie:C-;The current revival:B+/A-

Stage Door
Drama Desk Nomineesannounced.Color me very surprised that all three principles fromWomen on the Verge...got nominated: Sherie Rene Scott,Patti Lupone and Laura Benanti (pictured left).Only Benanti as the ditzy chatterbox who sleeps with a terrorist thrilled the audience the night I attended;the musical was no match for the Almodóvar source material.
Gold Derbyhas the Drama League nominees.I served one year on the nominating committee several years ago and it was a ton of fun (they have a rotating civilian section of the nominating committee)
Back Stage Blog StageSeems that Sutton Foster (one of our favorites) and Bobby Canavale (The Station Agent,Will & Grace) are now an item.
KritzerlandCamelot's original London cast recording from 1964 is getting released this summer.Laurence Harvey instead of Richard Burton as King Arthur![gasp]
La Daily Mustolists a very odd assortment of his fav "11th hour"Broadway Musical numbers.He seems to have a very loose definition...but there's absolutely no beating "LOT'S WIFE"fromCaroline or Change.I saw that show twice and both times I thought I was going to explode inside it was so moving.

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Reader Comments (8)

Oh,great feature.Makes me wish my free ticket supply hadn't run out until the new shows start arriving late summer/early fall.That is unless Spider-Man gets particularly desperate and is willing to chance my wrath at the removal of Greek theatrical structure from that show.

Regarding Patti,Featured Actress in a Musical is a very weak category this year.When you're looking at people who are only remarkable for singing--like Karen Mason and Kate Shindle in Wonderland--in equal measure with someone like Laura Benanti in Women on the Verge,you know there's a problem.No one's even mentioning Jessica Stone as Erma in Anything Goes and that's normally a scene-stealing role.

Shoot,Leading Actress in a Musical is only going to have 4 nominees at the Tony Awards.Not a great year for female roles in NYC musicals.

May 2,2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

Nathaniel,you know I LOVE it when you talk theater!And I'm super excited about tomorrow - I know there's a good chance my favorite theater diva,the amazing Donna Murphy,will get nominated,so I'm crossing my fingers!Though the show she's in could be a lot better ( I've already seen it twice),she is simply incredible and giving a master class up on that stage.As much as I love Sutton Foster (and I do - have seen her in at least 5 different shows),I want Murphy to win that Tony this year.Pattina Miller of SISTER ACT was also good but Donna Murphy is my favorite.

In regard to WOMEN ON THE VERGE - I have to say,I saw this show three times and loved it,despite all of its flaws.The score is incredible - I've been listening to it on repeat since it came out 2 weeks ago!I must have listened to LuPone's "Invisible"at least 50 times - really!And i think she did great work on that stage with a role that was written as a caricature.I'd give a nomination both to her and Benanti (who owned that show and should win the Tony),but not to Scott who indeed was very confused and unsympathetic as the lead character.

May 2,2011 | Unregistered CommenterLeehee

I was very surprised about the wealth of nominations for the extremely poorly received Women on the Verge...It nabbed 4 nominations!That seems like so many for a show that closed so soon.I really believe that Sherie Rene Scott needs to win SOMETHING considering how awesome she is.I still don't know how she lost the Drama Desk for The Last 5 Years.

May 2,2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames

I'm so excited for this new series!And on the eve of the Tony nominations,no less!

May 2,2011 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Julianne Moore ...Star Quality???????

May 2,2011 | Unregistered Commenterrick

Oh wow,theatre gossip.My sis loves Bobby Canavale but does not like Sutton Foster.She won't be happy about this!

May 2,2011 | Unregistered CommenterCity_Of_Lights

i have learned a lot from this blog that how handle in different situations if you are plumber.

May 3,2011 | Unregistered CommenterFrameless Shower Door

I totally agree!Julianne's not bad as Marie but she really needed a stronger director.
In the movie,Marie is quite unbearable and Bruce seems like a saint and that's clearyly not the point of the play.

May 3,2011 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue
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