What red-blooded goth band wouldn’t want their video introduced by camp goth legend Elvira?! Video below.
The Heiress, based on Washington Square, the 1880 novel by Henry James, tells the story of Catherine Sloper, the shy and sheltered daughter of a prominent New York doctor in 1850. Caught between the demands of her emotionally abusive father and the attentions of a passionate young suitor of dubious intentions, Catherine struggles to find her own place in the world.
Much has been made of the fact that Jessica Chastain is too beautiful to play Catherine Sloper. That misses the point of The Heiress – the problem isn’t that Catherine is plain, but that she has been made to feel inferior and socially inept, a very queer theme indeed. Paul Huntley’s wig and hair design, together with Ashley Ryan’s savvy make-up design, tell this story very clearly, as Catherine goes from unflattering but period-correct hairstyles to looser but more confident and genuinely “handsomer” looks.
Chastain herself plays Catherine’s journey smartly with solid attention to detail, even if she doesn’t quite succeed in finding the depths of Catherine’s transformation into a formidable and intelligent women with her own powerful will. In any event, Chastain does locate Catherine’s interior dignity from beginning to end, never cheating her character’s feelings for the sake of a comic moment.
David Strathairn wisely plays Catherine’s father Dr. Sloper as deeply damaged goods rather than the embodiment of evil. The not-so-good doctor, in Strathairn’s approach, does love his daughter, but totally lacks the tools to know how to express that feeling. This effectively points up the society-wide failings of mid-19th Century America, rather than isolating one aberrant man – a far closer approach to the insights of Henry James than previous interpretations.
Downtown Abbey heartthrob Dan Stevens is adequate as Morris Townsend, Catherine’s suitor, handsome and milksopy enough to reflect both the admiration and doubt that comes Morris’s way. As so often happens, Judith Ivey is probably the best thing in the production as the giddy and romantic Aunt Lavinia – we are with her sentimental thoughts until the very last moments of the play. A solid production of a period piece that has aged very well.
For tickets, click here.
For more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Warman, see dramaqueennyc.com.
It’s entirely fitting that one of singer Sue Raney’s recent albums was a tribute to Doris Day. Like Day, Raney is a blonde creature of sunlight. She may be a more sophisticated stylist today than she was in her 1960s heydey, but her main attraction is still the warm golden glow of her phrasing and tone.
Time has added jazziness and a gentle melancholy, but the result is more romantically autumnal than truly dark. Raney’s interpretation of Day’s career-making hit “Sentimental Journey” speaks volumes about both singers. Raney’s reading is jazzier and tells more of a story, but still celebrates sentiment and travel in the same way Day’s original did.
For her first New York nightclub engagement in 25 years, Raney is accompanied by her longtime colleague Alan Broadbent on piano, whose approach is kissed by that same sunset warmth. Broadbent and Raney both interpret from a personal, emotional place, erasing the distance some jazz performers place between themselves and the material. Their approach to songs is never merely polite.
Her take on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “It Might As Well Be Spring” would no doubt have pleased the composers immensely, since she nails both the song’s essential optimism and the wry wink that goes with it. She doesn’t commit the cabaret sin of singing too many ballads, but, it must be said, she never really lets loose or swings either.
Indeed, sometimes she and Broadbent are almost too warmly emotional, giving songs an almost easy listening sheen. No danger of that, however, in Raney’s slowed-down interpretation of “Que Sera Sera”, which really pays attention to the lyrics and their cautious, almost rueful edge. Raney is always a very expressive singer, never descending into the quietly reverent. Overall, a lovely, soothing show.
For tickets, click here.
For more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Warman, see his blog Drama Queen.