Review Roundup: Vineyard Theatre's TOO MUCH SUN
TOO MUCH SUN - the newest play by Nicky Silver - will play until June 22 at the Vineyard Theatre (108 E. 15 St.). Mark Brokaw directs the cast starring the Tony Award-winning actress Linda Lavin (BROADWAY BOUND, "Alice"), joined by Ken Barnett (WONDERFUL TOWN, AND BABY MAKES SEVEN), Richard Bekins (TARTUFFE, LOVE! VALOR! COMPASSION!), Matt Dellapina (OUTSIDE PEOPLE, DREAM OF THE BURNING BOY), Matt Dickson(WAR HORSE, COAST OF UTOPIA) and Jennifer Westfeldt (THE LIBRARY, Kissing Jessica Stein).
In Too Much Sun, Ms. Lavin portrays Audrey Langham, a celebrated actress who unravels completely while preparing for a new production of MEDEA. With nowhere else to go, she descends upon her married daughter for a summer by the sea. She is not, however, greeted with confetti and champagne. Her arrival sets off a chain of events alternately hilarious, harrowing and unforgettable.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Ben Brantley, NY Times: "Too Much Sun," which opened on Sunday night in an astutely acted production that features Jennifer Westfeldt (as Audrey's unfortunate daughter) and sharp direction by Mark Brokaw, is hardly a perfect play. Mr. Silver, author of "The Lyons" and "Raised in Captivity," has always combined show-off juvenile cleverness with a mature philosophical melancholy; his unevenness is as immense as his talents. His latest work shows evidence of both of these aspects. Yet in a New York season when so many new plays have been exercises in either straightforward didacticism or surface stylistic flourishes, it's a relief to sit down with a dramatist who has such an original and thoroughly sustained tragicomic worldview. And it's an unconditional treat to witness an actress like Ms. Lavin tuned so precisely into the writer's wavelength that script and performance become a marriage of true minds.
Frank Scheck, NY Post: Director Mark Brokaw fails to make the strained, artificial proceedings cohere, and the supporting players frequently flounder in wildly inconsistent roles. Luckily, he has a star who handles broad comedy and pathos alike with consummate skill. When she delivers such lines as "Oh, the needy sex . . . I know that sex" with deadpan serenity, she proves again that there can never be too much Lavin.
Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: The cast and director Mark Brokaw can't do much with material lacking cohesion and tartness. Even lines that zing seem second-hand. Kitty's lament about crackers tasting "like punishment" echoes a "Lyons" quip about a couch being the "shade of washed-out hopes." But that mimicry is minor compared to gaping plot holes and sketchy characterizations. "Too Much" is actually too little.
Jesse Green, Vulture: I appreciate that Silver is trying to mix his batter in new ways; it's important for a playwright to avoid formulas, and commendable that a theater commits to him through thick and thin. (Too Much Sun is the ninth Silver play to debut at the Vineyard.) But not every experiment works, and some are not worth wasting Linda Lavin on. Maybe the problems of Too Much Sun called for Audrey Langham's solution in Chicago, if not Medea's in Corinth.
Matt Windman, amNY: "Too Much Sun" feels like an early draft of what could be a promising play. While Audrey is an amusing character, it is undercut by a surplus of subplots, including an affair between Kitty's husband and a younger man and the attempts of Gil, the harried assistant of Audrey's agent, to convince Audrey to return to the stage or risk the end of her career. The pace is also harmed by unnecessary short monologues.
Steven Suskin, Huffington Post: The story holds few surprises, and neither the characters, the performers, nor the badinage offer much compensation. Chalk it up to an off night for Mr. Silver and Mr. Brokaw (of How I Learned to Drive and the current Cinderella). Even Ms. Lavin, who has been known to make an awful lot out of very little, can't do much with nothing. She does get to sing the Weill-Brecht "Surabaya Johnny" in the second act, in the original German. Go figure. Maybe it's simply too much sun?
Robert Feldberg, Bergen Record: The play is a toxic mix of soap opera and melodrama about loneliness and disconnection, with lame comic lines tossed in. It achieves the considerable feat of being totally unbelievable - not a single scene rings true - and almost completely predictable. When Dennis and Lucas sit together cozily on the beach, bonding over sci-fi, you don't need a script to know which way the sea breeze is blowing, although it takes the play another 30 minutes to arrive at the scene's destination.
Linda Winer, Newsday: Many of Silver's favorite kinds of characters are here, but with little of their customary originality or honesty. Nor has director Mark Brokaw ("The Lyons") been able to reconcile Silver's outrageous comic voice with his new appetite for melodramatic cliche. The tone changes so often that it's hard to know which tone is being betrayed.
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: In Nicky Silver's previous play, "The Lyons," which originated at the Vineyard under the direction of Mark Brokaw, Linda Lavin played a mother who ruins her children's lives to gratify her own monstrous ego. In the scribe's new play, "Too Much Sun," which just opened at the Vineyard under the direction of Brokaw, Lavin plays a mother who ruins her daughter's life to gratify her own monstrous ego. And just for laughs, this modern-day Medea actually gets to play the role of that murderous Greek matriarch in the prologue.