Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The New York Idea: A Whimsical Update that is Great Fun

The New York Idea is delightful.  The Atlantic Theater Production of this reworked show is now playing at the Lucille Lortel Theater.  The New York Idea is a drawing room comedy from the 1900s, that has been adapted and updated by David Auburn.  One may quibble with the changes made for modern taste, but since this is the first change for New Yorkers to see this fun show in almost 100 years, the changes seem justified if they make this work more accessible.

The New York Idea originally grappled with the idea of divorce – a novel and scandalous institution in the early 1900s.  And not just the idea of divorce, but the idea that maybe it wasn’t the worst thing in the world.  This current revival doesn't stress the divorce angle too hard, aside from an older, stuffier and hilarious generational divide.  After all, divorce is common today – there are few ways to comment on it that aren’t preachy.  And so The New York Idea turns instead on its drawing room comedy of manners, confused entanglements and social scheming for love and wealth.

In summary, which never do these types plays justice, Cynthia and John Karslake are recently divorced, as are Vida and Philip Philimore.  Cynthia is about to marry Philip Philimore – much to his family’s chagrin, after all they are not just divorced but recently divorced.  The arrival of a dapper and seriously flirtatious British Lord and Matthew Philimore – a social climbing Pastor,muddles it all up.

Francesca Faridany being not at all traditional
in 1905 with Rick Homes.
Jamie Ray Newman, as Cynthia, is extremely enjoyable when playing the gayest one in the room.  The role actual shrinks through the play rather than grows as she understands what she is giving up.  Her false bravado gives way to self-doubt, which is true to the character, but a drag on the proceedings.  On the opposite end of the spectrum is Francesca Faridany as Vida Philimore.  Ms. Faridany is like a filly given full reign to run free, and she does spectacularly.  Swathed in voluminous apparel by Michael Krass, Vida sweeps into a room and takes it over with pure energy and fun.  Something not altogether appropriate in Washington Square in 1905.

Joey Slotnick as Pastor Matthew and Rick Holmes as the British Wilfred Cates-Darby, bring a nice energy and a healthy dose of innocent charm to their roles as trouble makers.

Michael Countryman does good work as Philip Philimore, rather harried ex-husband of Vida and current fiancé of Cynthia.  The Greek Chorus of the unamused older generation is well handled by Patricia O’Connell, Patricia Conolly and Tom Patrick Stephens.  No doubt today’s audience is not as sympathetic towards them as they were previously, but they still speak of more genteel times.  As it turns out, Nostalgia is consistent across a century.

Mark Brokaw is blessed with a wonderful cast, and he has showcased them well.  Even the curtain gives off a the dandy air, circa Olden TimesThe New York Idea is wonderful and a fully enjoyable evening. 
The New York Idea
Director: Mark Brokaw
Playwright: David Auburn’s adaptation of Langdon Mitchell’s original
Cast: Patricia Conolly, Michael Countryman, Francesca Faridany, Mikaela Feely-Lehmann, Rick Holmes, John Keating, Peter Maloney, Jamie Ray Newman, Patricia O’Connell, Jeremy Shamos, Joey Slotnick, Tom Patrick Stephens

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