After a hoot of an entrance by Bernadette Peters showboating a tune from the rafters at a church wedding, Coming Up Roses takes a nosedive into despair and stays there. We’re in the ratty end of Nashua, New Hampshire, in economically stressed 1985, with drug gangs on every corner of the trashed-out neighborhood. But Diane (Peters) is hanging on to the diva dreams of her former stage life with enough leftover gowns and glitter to keep daughter number two, the teenage Alice (Rachel Brosnahan) in thrall, though the soulful-eyed Peters plays it more like a precarious Blanche DuBois than a brassy showgirl or even Peters’s own Mama Rose. It’s really Alice’s story anyway: She’s the emotional, sometimes financial, ballast for a single mother teetering between reality and fantasy; it’s an autobiographical reminiscence from director Lisa Albright, with the impressive Brosnahan both tender and resilient as her stand-in. Coming Up Roses cleverly pommels the bruises of anyone raised in a starstruck environment or by a parent using rent money for clothes to “look the part and get out of this dump.” Peter Friedman as a pervy gentleman caller and Reyna de Courcy as a tough girl making a pass at Alice perform well, though their roles seem like updated add-ons. The shredding of the single-mom-child romance—a growing mini-genre, “Smacromance”?—is enough.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 7, 2012