Sunday, January 16, 2011

Theater Review: Grey Gardens at JPAC!

Family binds never really break do they? We usually find ourselves running away from our families on some levels but in the end we always to return home again in one way or another. That is the horror that Little Edie Bouvier feels in the musical “Grey Gardens” which opened on the 14th at the Jedlicka Performing Arts Center just outside the Chicago city limits at Morton College in Cicero.

“Grey Gardens” is a harder show to pull off then it looks because the jump in time between the two acts always seems to confuse the audience. I didn't think JPAC quite solved that issue but all the other productions I've seen haven't been able to either.

I thought overall they did a good job with with a difficult show, that had some great moments and some really questionable ones.

The show starts with the older Beales fighting with each other but the problem is you can only see one of them Edith Beal and then moves back to the past. I think this left the audience a little confused and the pacing in this production really needs to be picked up as it felt like the actors weren't sure of their lines or how to maintain their strong new England accents.

We're then invited to performance from a younger Edith Beal played by Mary Nigohosian in her living rool accompanied by her her accompanist and trusted friend George Gould Strong played with Addison DeWitt charm by Austin Cook. Edith has a tendency to always put on performance of her singing no matter where ever she might be or how uncomfortable it might make her daughter Little Edie played by Jill Sesso.

Saddled with an unfortunate wig which I think was the problem others had Ms. Sesso sang the role Little Edie better then I've heard it sung before. It seemed like she was belting the music with a youthful strength whereas the others who I've seen sang it usually sing it in more of a soprano voice to match the Edie of the second act. I don't know if belting it was the right thing to do but it did make the music that Little Edie has in the first act sound better then I've heard it sound. I thought she played the anger she had at her mother extremely well but didn't show the mental illness that would start slowly creeping into the character.

In the second act Mary Hobein was a touching Edith with a strong soprano who you could see the ravages of time and Grey Gadens starting to take it's toll on her mental state however, I thought she had without a doubt one of the worst wigs and hats on that I've ever seen on stage. It looked like she was playing dress up at some suburban costume shop.

The Ensemble was a mixed bag filled with some good performances from Gary Saipe and Steve Perkins in a very small role as their servant Brooks Jr./Sr. to some like Charles Lane Cowen who kind of stood around lacking any charm that you would expect Joseph Patrick Kennedy Jr. to have and his double turn as Jerry the handman felt like a walk on role but again bad hair.

In any production of “Grey Garden's” it can rise and fall on the woman playing Edith the mother in the first Act and then in the second Act switching roles to play the daughter Little Edie (see how this can confuse audiences.) At JPAC these roles are played by Mary Nigohosian who posses a strong soprano voice though while lacking the elegant woman of the house she's playing in the first act she makes up for it with a campy turn of Little Edie that pulls at your heart strings in the second act. I thought her “Will You” and “Around the World” was lovely and well acted but was slightly disappointed by her “Another Winter in a Summer Town.”

This has always been more a character type of musical with some fascinating though off putting types of characters and I think the director worked on those aspects well however, much like the Beal's he left everything else in this production to the cats.

GREY GARDENS is directed by Micheal A. Kott with music direction by Adam Gustafson, Choreography by Sarah Bright, Scenic Design by Michael Nedza, Costume Design by Jennifer Ring and Lighting Design by Dante Orfei. Music direction is by Adam Gustafson who will lead an 8-piece live orchestra.

GREY GARDENS opens January 14th at 7:30pm and plays Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30pm through January 29th with 3pm Matinees on Sunday January 16th and Sunday January 23th. Tickets are $17, $15 (senior citizens) and $10 (18 and younger), and are available on-line at, or by calling JPAC’s box-office at 708-656-1800.


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