By: Dan Gordon, based on the novel by Larry McMurtry and the screenplay by James L Brooks
Directed by: David Taylor
Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre
Date: Monday 8th October 2007
This stage adaptation is apparently different from the film, though it borrows at least one of the film’s conflations – that of the character Garrett Breedlove (what a name!). Not having read the book nor seen the movie, I had very little idea of what to expect, other than some tear jerking moments. For someone who likes a good sob on a regular basis, and who is often known to indulge, I found my eyes only became moist at the ending of this play, though as I did have a few laughs along the way, I still enjoyed myself well enough.
The plot. Mother and daughter disagree over daughter’s choice of husband, then come together over daughter’s illness and death. During all this, mother rediscovers sex. That’s about it.
The set had two platforms to the rear, and space at the front of the stage with doors either side. Mostly, these spaces stayed the same, but there were changes for the hospital scenes and after the initial scene with the daughter smoking pot with her best friend in the bathroom. Theatre of burglary was well to the fore again, and we were also treated to the ludicrous sight of a long black pole sliding a seat and table onto the stage from one of the forward doorways.
The performances varied. John Bowe was excellent as Garrett Breedlove, giving the most rounded performance of the cast, and making the most of what was one of the better parts, if not the best. He certainly made it look that way. The best scene of all was his almost casual threatening of the oncologist supposedly looking after the daughter, but he boosted the energy every time he appeared. I particularly liked his expression when he almost gets away without commenting on the mother’s “I love you”. Linda Gray as Aurora, the mother, still has a good body, if the parts showing through the diaphanous nightgown are anything to go by. Her acting range doesn’t appear to extend to depth of characterisation, nor to subtlety of performance, but she made up for it by semaphoring wildly and rapidly during the opening scenes, and with the range of her grimaces, most of which we saw during the first half. This was all tempered after the interval – it’s amazing what a good orgasm can do for a woman – and she made it to the end OK. The daughter, the other main part, was OK, but I felt it was seriously underwritten. The final deathbed scene was moving, though I think I had been more affected by Garrett’s concern for the daughter than anything else.
Not a play I would choose to see again, but not a complete loss of an evening, either, thanks to Mr Bowe.
© 2007 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me