Weakened in the Country

Friel's script occasionally drops hints that he thinks he's creating an Irish equivalent of Chekhov, but where his Russian model was terse and pointillistic, Friel's lines are labored, and lumpy with explanation. Instead of linking into one vast picture, his events simply repeat one another, sluggishly. Nor does he ever give any reason why we should care about this particular novelist's dry spell, except for his phony colleague's praise, which has no credibility— especially not as rendered by Gawn Grainger, in the ham equivalent of italic bold 38-point Gothic.

That uncertain party: Cynthia Nixon in The Country Club
photo: Joan Marcus
That uncertain party: Cynthia Nixon in The Country Club

Details

The Country Club
By Douglas Carter Beane
The Drama Dept. at Greenwich House Theatre
27 Barrow Street
541-8441

Give Me Your Answer, Do!
By Brian Friel
Roundabout/Gramercy Theatre
127 East 23rd Street
777-4900

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Grainger's performance may suffer partly from Kyle Donnelly's direction, which seems to have divided the cast: Lois Smith, as the doctor, is gray and ineffectual, while the normally fine Kate Burton, as her daughter, tends to wave her arms and look helplessly up at the balcony. In contrast, John Glover as the hero, shoulders clenched and mouth set in an unhappy semi-smile, is the most convincing novelist I've ever seen onstage; Helen Carey, as his rival's long-suffering wife, uses means as meager as Smith's to make a portrait infinitely more vivid. And Joel Grey, as the klepto father-in-law, builds to the shattering effect Friel calls for with sheer demure simplicity.

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