I wrote that I had problems with a patron at the theater where I was working last night. What I failed to mention was the name of the theater. I am at the Walter Kerr Theater again, working Grey Gardens again. I told you that there was a very small crowd last night, no doubt because of the absence of Christine Ebersole. Her understudy was up to the task. She was certainly talented enough but when you see an understudy take over for a big star you start to appreciate why that bigger star they are replacing is so enjoyable to watch.
The biggest problem I had was the physical difference between the two performers. The understudy, (whose name forgive me, I can't remember) is at least one foot shorter than Ms. Ebersole. That was very distracting for me because the person they play is very tall. And then there's the fact that the understudy just doesn't have the same presence as Christine Ebersole. Also, she's not as connected to the part which I imagine she will improve as she gets more opportunities to work on it.
But Christine Ebersole was back in today and she was brilliant, really brilliant. Maybe it's because I've been feeling emotional lately, but from the middle of Act II to the end of the show, I was weeping. When she's singing Around the World, about her life of fear, missed opportunities and psychological abuse at the hands of her parents, she makes me cry every time. It's the kind of performance that makes you want to go out and live because you don't want to end up as crazy shut-ins with 50 cats like her and her mother. That song touches me.
There's another song called Choose to Be Happy that has one meaning but the actors playing out their parts on stage make it ironic because they are not happy. I cry during that one sometimes as well.
The show ends with a reprise of a song we heard at the top of the Act I but before that, the two Edies sing a beautiful duet about Another Winter in a Summer Town. Today, for that number, I needed one tissue and a half to get me through.
If you're feeling sad before you go to see Grey Gardens, this show will really help you express some tears and you may feel sadder. Personally, I like to have a good cry when watching sad movies or plays. It makes me feel like I'm understanding the story the way it was intended by the creators and performers. But if you're looking for a feel good experience, I would definitely recommend something else entirely. Hairspray, Curtains, The Drowsy Chaperone, Chicago. Those shows leave you with that good feeling. Those shows will pick you up.
I don't know though. Maybe you'll feel better after you see Grey Gardens just because the performances are so good. But maybe not.
Consider yourself warned.