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The Waverly Gallery

Elaine May††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† photos by Brigitte Lacombe

 

 

††††††††††††††††††††††††††† by Deirdre Donovan

 

Kenneth Lonerganís 1999 play, The Waverly Gallery, is in revival at the John Golden Theatre with a top-notch cast.† Starring the legendary Elaine May, and directed by Lila Neugebauer (making her Broadway debut), it is a poignant portrait of an octogenarian suffering from Alzheimerís disease and how her family copes with the tragedy.

 

 

Hereís the story:† Gladys Green (Elaine May), in her 80s, is the owner of a small art gallery in Greenwich Village.† A one-time social activist and intellectual, she is beginning to show the symptoms of Alzheimerís disease.† Don, an aspiring artist from Massachusetts, materializes one day at the gallery and Gladys agrees to show his work.† It will prove to be the last show that Gladys presents in her gallery.† And why?† The landlord informs Gladysís daughter Ellen Fine (Joan Allen) that the gallery must close because he plans to make it into a breakfast cafe for his new hotel.

 

 

 

Told through the eyes of Gladysí grandson Daniel Reed (Lucas Hedges), and set between 1989 and 1991, it is a memory play that speaks pertinently to the present-day.

 

Sound like a depressing story?† Well, Lonergan didnít mince his words when depicting Alzheimerís disease in The Waverly Gallery, a 2001 Pulitzer Prize finalist.

 

The best reason to see this show, of course, is to witness the 86 year-old May back on Broadway.† And her performance?† It is pitch-perfect.† Those who are May fans (and who isnít?) will be treated to seeing her nuanced acting, impeccable timing, and sheer stamina in this 2 hour-plus production.† True, she gained fame through her long-time partnership with Mike Nichols and countless other showbiz ventures.† But sheís never been one to rest on her laurelsó

 

 

While May is the big draw to the show, the cast has no slouches.† Thereís Lucas Hedges who has two personas as Gladysí grandson Daniel Reed and the narrator.† Without upstaging May, Hedges turns in a grounded double performance, and essentially becomes our guide through the play.†

 

Joan Allen & Elaine May

 

Joan Allen plays Gladysí daughter Ellen Fine with a mixture of level-headedness and exasperation.† Allenís character demonstrates how difficult and painful it is to witness the mental deterioration of a parentóand how it takes its toll on an entire family.†

 

David Cromer, who won a Tony Award last season for his direction of The Bandís Visit, returns to the boards again with his portrayal of Howard Fine.† Cromer comes across as the most even-keeled family member, a good husband and step-father who speaks his mind (sometimes too bluntly!) and calls a spade a spade.

 

Michael Cera, as the artist Don Bowman, is also well-cast.† Cera, who earned a Tony nomination last season for his performance in Lonerganís Lobby Hero, has a gift for playing off-beat but likable characters.† And his Don has just the right blending of sincerity and geekiness.

 

David Zinnís evocative set, in collaboration with Brian MacDevittís lighting, succeed in giving us a convincing backdrop for the action, whether itís at Gladysí quaint gallery, Gladys and Danielís adjourning apartments in Greenwich Village, or the Finesí middle-class apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.† Ann Rothís costumes are nothing fancy but subtly accent each characterís personality.

 

Yes, The Waverly Gallery explores a serious health subject and is a bonafide tear-jerker.† But one goes away from the show wiseróand gains a broader and more realistic view on Alzheimerís disease.

 

Through January 27th, 2019

At the John Golden Theatre, 252 W. 45th Street, Manhattan

For tickets, visit www.thewaverlygalleryonbroadway.com or phone 212-239-6200

Running time: 2 hours; 10 minutes with intermission