Review Roundup: ELLING

Brendan Fraser and Denis O'Hare star in ELLING on Broadway with Jennifer Coolidge in ELLING, new comedy from London, directed by Tony Award-winner Doug Hughes. ELLING began performances Tuesday, November 2, opened Sunday, November 21 on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre 243 West 47th Street and will play a strictly limited engagement through March 20, 2011. ELLING is based on the popular original novels by Ingvar Ambjørnsen and adapted for the Oscar nominated film and the stage by Axel Hellstenius and Petter Næss, in a new English adaptation by critically hailed writer Simon Bent. ELLING played the West End and was nominated for the Lawrence Olivier Award for Comedy of the Year. Set in the current day, ELLING is a comedy about a wildly mismatched pair of roommates trying to embrace life, love, friendship, pizza, poetry and women.  

Charles Isherwood, The New York Times: It's probably true that a more restrained approach to the material would be impossible to put across successfully in a large theater, at least in the vulgarized context of today's Broadway. But it is hard to see the point of translating this story to the stage if you have to distort or disregard the qualities that make it fresh.

Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: The whole thing is pretty odd, and yet oddly fun. Or, as Elling likes to say whenever people catch on that he is a little odd, "I prefer the English expression 'rare.' As in uncommon."

Adam Markovitz, Entertainment Weekly: The play certainly has some funny moments, and a few poignant ones too. But like its marquee star, Elling doesn't feel quite ready for the Broadway stage. B-

Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg News: Political correctness suffers a lively blow in the slight, endearing "Elling," a Broadway comedy starring Brendan Fraser and Denis O'Hare as mentally ill roommates tentatively making their way in the world.

Marilyn Stasio, Variety: Elling" looks like a hard sell for Broadway. Simon Bent's stage adaptation of Norwegian author Ingvar Ambjornsen's cult novels about two former mental patients adjusting to life in the "normal" world was rumored to have had a certain gentle, wistful charm in its London production. (The 2002 film version was up for a foreign-language film Oscar.) But as dumbed down for American auds (why do they keep doing this to us?), this queasy-making comedy is so broadly played, by a cast headlined by Denis O'Hare and Brendan Fraser, it's close to sitcom. Call it "Friends With Mental Issues."

Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: Like its characters, "Elling" doesn't quite fit in its natural environment, but it has a modest, oddball charm.

David Rooney, Reuters/Hollywood Reporter: All three lead actors have amusing moments, especially O'Hare with his acerbic deadpan. But overall, the comedy feels strained. Everything is pitched so loud that nuances of character and emotional underpinnings get lost, which draws attention to the play's fragile dramatic trajectory.

Like David Mamet's "A Life in the Theater" this season, which is closing early due to underwhelming business, there's a sense here of a small play swimming on a Broadway stage and struggling to project to a large house.

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