Jessica Chastain in The Heiress

wskrs4
Chorus Member
joined:7/9/11
Jessica Chastain in The Heiress
Posted: 1/22/13 at 10:13am
I finally saw The Heiress last weekend, and I was curious about Jessica Chastain's performance. I thought she was brilliant because to me, it was clear she was playing the part of Catherine as somebody who had some sort of autism - perhaps Asperger's. The person that I saw it with didn't get that at all and just thought she was "weird and shy."

At the time the play took place, they wouldn't have had a word for autism and she just would have been that shy, strange woman. However, it wasn't just the shyness that came across to me. Ms. Chastain put extremely strange emphasis on certain words/parts of words, had irregular speech patterns, and had some strange physical mannerisms. I worked with a woman with Asperger's once and watching Catherine on stage was like watching this woman.

After the show, I went through reviews and most of them were mixed. Several reviewers were dismayed that she played the role so flatly and strangely, but if she were purposely playing her to be autistic, I thought she was brilliant. However, if she wasn't trying to play her as having an actual problem (and just presented a shy Catherine), I must say I'm very confused as to what she was doing up there, especially since she is a good actress.

Any thoughts from people who have seen this production?
FindingNamo
Broadway Legend
joined:7/22/03
Jessica Chastain in The Heiress
Posted: 1/22/13 at 10:18am
So basically your key word is "strange"?

I think people on the autism spectrum might prefer a less loaded word. How about "different"?
"Colbert is toast after this latest flap." -- Mr Roxy "Read 'Atlas Shrugged'." -- Gothampc
promptpost
Swing
joined:1/22/13
Jessica Chastain in The Heiress
Posted: 1/22/13 at 11:15am
wskrs4
Chorus Member
joined:7/9/11
Jessica Chastain in The Heiress
Posted: 1/22/13 at 11:51am
Strange: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/strange

I think the definition of the word applies. I'm sorry it has a less sugary sound than "different" or "odd" but it means the same thing. Being strange doesn't necessarily mean a bad thing, but it means something unfamiliar and out of the norm. I would think a behavior disorder of any type carries strange behaviors with it, whether it's autism, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, etc.

That being said, I'm sorry if anybody was offended. I, as somebody who doesn't have autism, also can act strangely (as I suspect most of us do to other people) and I freely admit it so I don't really think about that word being any more loaded than "different."

Now, all of that being said, does anybody who has seen this production have any ideas?
followspot
Broadway Star
joined:12/27/11
Jessica Chastain in The Heiress
Posted: 1/22/13 at 12:10pm

It's a worthy question based on Chastain's performance, wskrs4, especially if this is your first exposure to the play.

In my opinion, Chastain's take on the character is a simplistic one that buries the fact that there are actually three Catherines in the script Catherine with her aunt (calm, witty, intelligent), Catherine with her father (cowering, self-doubting, panic-stricken), and Catherine with Morris (shy, nervous, awkward) and yet a fourth (possibly positively, possibly negatively) evolved Catherine in the play's final scene. It's a very complex character, short-served by any interpretation in which Catherine simply has, or appears to have, some form of overriding impediment. Unfortunately, that seems to be what Chastain was guided toward.

"Tracy... Hold Mama's waffles."
Updated On: 1/23/13 at 12:10 PM
Kelly2
Broadway Legend
joined:1/5/07
Jessica Chastain in The Heiress
Posted: 1/22/13 at 12:18pm
I would think a behavior disorder of any type carries strange behaviors with it, whether it's autism, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, etc."

Your ignorance is showing, none of those "disorders" have much of anything in common, including their "strange behaviors", which are all characteristic of the underlying problem causing them and which could not be more different from one another.

Sorry, off-topic, but the ignorance and tossing around of buzz-word "disorders" without any real knowledge of them is a huge pet peeve of mine. "Disorder", incidentally, is also not really the appropriate word.

"Get mad, then get over it." - Colin Powell
Updated On: 1/22/13 at 12:18 PM
wskrs4
Chorus Member
joined:7/9/11
Jessica Chastain in The Heiress
Posted: 1/22/13 at 12:38pm
I wasn't saying they are the same issues or anything alike, but they are all some sort of disorder. You are putting words in my mouth - all I did was make a list and did not say they were the same, or actually anything alike, just that they affect behavior. And yes, autism IS a disorder, so you are the one that is incorrect:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002494/

http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/info/autism/#.UP7Or_LkVOU

The MEDICAL community refers to it as a disorder. You may not like the word, but if it's good enough for not only the medical community but people trying to educate others about autism (see links) then that's what I would think, as an "ignorant" person, it should be called.

I'm not trying to fight a war over terms to describe autism, but I did do some research before making my post and did not come up with the word. However I offended you so I am sorry; it was clearly not my intention. I feel like I'm walking on eggshells here! I'm trying to, as honestly as I can, ask a question about a show and the actress/director's choices as perceived by other people, not passing some sort of judgment.



Updated On: 1/22/13 at 12:38 PM
broadwayjim42
Broadway Legend
joined:5/19/03
Jessica Chastain in The Heiress
Posted: 1/22/13 at 12:41pm
I posted on another thread that I thought Chastain or the character's choices of emphasizing certain words came from the character's stunted emotional growth. Yes, she's shy but she's also rarely heard a positive word from anyone so when she does get some positive attention, she doesn't know how to respond and says what she believes she's supposed to say in these situations rather than actually feeling it.

A friend of a friend did say thought it came across that she was a little "special."
Kelly2
Broadway Legend
joined:1/5/07
Jessica Chastain in The Heiress
Posted: 1/22/13 at 01:12pm
All I'm saying is many people object to the term "disorder" and that when you group things together, you are implying similarity, and the three conditions you listed have almost nothing in common beyond that they all exist.

As far as Chastain, I did not get this sense from her performance at all. I thought, as BroadwayJim said, that it was an emotional stunting that caused her mannerisms, not any kind of condition.
"Get mad, then get over it." - Colin Powell
suestorm
Broadway Legend
joined:1/15/13
Jessica Chastain in The Heiress
Posted: 1/22/13 at 01:17pm
oh god. here we go again with the WORD POLICE
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Kelly2
Broadway Legend
joined:1/5/07
Jessica Chastain in The Heiress
Posted: 1/22/13 at 01:23pm
Suestorm, sorry, guess you're lucky and you've never seen a loved one suffer because of the inaccurate words people use to describe their condition. Words matter.

"Get mad, then get over it." - Colin Powell
Updated On: 1/22/13 at 01:23 PM
suestorm
Broadway Legend
joined:1/15/13
Jessica Chastain in The Heiress
Posted: 1/22/13 at 02:09pm
i guess im just tired of some being so darn sensitive. When something stupid like this is called out as unsensitive, or offensive, it cheapens things and words that are really offensive which then get ignorned or thrown into a whole pot. What ever happened to sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. You cannot have a conversation these days without some bleeding heart crying or faking outrage for attention.
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Kelly2
Broadway Legend
joined:1/5/07
Jessica Chastain in The Heiress
Posted: 1/22/13 at 02:15pm
I don't think you get to decided what's objectively insensitive or offensive to every single person on the planet. Everyone's life experience makes them sensitive or offended by different things. Mental illness is a touchy subject and unless you can discuss it delicately, don't discuss it. Period.

That's all, you sound very privileged. I hope this thread returns to discussion of the lovely Miss Chastain now.
"Get mad, then get over it." - Colin Powell
suestorm
Broadway Legend
joined:1/15/13
Jessica Chastain in The Heiress
Posted: 1/22/13 at 02:23pm
KELLY is there a thread here where you dont tell someone how to act,what to say? If so i havent come across it. as usual youre telling everyone what is acceptabble or not. Stop being a nosyrosey, Im done responding to you. you just want the attention

Anyway, I saw the Heiress and I loved it. Jessicas did so much acting without even saying a word in some scenes. her expressions were just amazing



FINDINGNAMO, SNAFU, THEATERDIVE, JORDANCATALONO, LIZASHEADBAND, PALJOEY: You all claim to "IGNORE ME" I wish you would and stop constantly commenting on my posts. Thanks ...................................................................................................................................... The MOST POPULAR and DANGEROUS Poster on BWW! Banned by the PTA, PTC and the MEANGIRLS of BWW..................................................................................................................... ...Ukraine Girls really knock me out, they leave the west behind..........................
Updated On: 1/22/13 at 02:23 PM
WickedRENTAwakening
Understudy
joined:8/4/11
Jessica Chastain in The Heiress
Posted: 1/22/13 at 02:51pm
I did not enjoy THE HEIRESS. It was as if Temple Grandin was on that stage for nearly three hours. I was told she was going to screw a horse out of $130.00 in the second act which is why I stayed, that horse turned out to be me.

After seeing THE HEIRESS and A CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF this year I have realized plays are defiantly not for me even when packaged with A-list actors. They are anti-climactic, unsatisfying and exhausting. The writers desperate yearning for subtlety is poor and costly. I had no Idea Brick was a homosexual in A CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF I thought Scarlett Johansson was sexually harassing a handicap because she was in heat making her the cat in heat on the hot tin roof.

I explained this to my friend who used the second intermission to read me the synopsis from wikipedia to which my response was great, why is not any of this happening on stage?

Give me a "Galinda Daiquiri" and sit me at the Gershwin for a witch trial over this nonsense any day.


RippedMan
Broadway Legend
joined:8/14/05
Jessica Chastain in The Heiress
Posted: 1/23/13 at 12:36am
I wasn't a fan. It was too flat and everything the same. There was no growth.
chrisampm2
Leading Actor
joined:5/26/07
Jessica Chastain in The Heiress
Posted: 1/23/13 at 01:05am
Wskrs, your comment confuses me. You think Chastain's performance is either brilliant or just confusing depending on her intention. For me, I don't care what a performer or anyone else on the creative team is going for. I just focus on my response. Does it affect me - emotionally or intellectually? Does it reveal something about the text, etc?

To me, Catherine being autistic is only interesting if it fuels the drama at hand. If she suffers from a condition, it deprives her of much ability to be affected most by the play's events and characters rather than her own make-up.
kelleymd
Chorus Member
joined:5/24/05
Jessica Chastain in The Heiress
Posted: 1/23/13 at 05:30am
Well said, Chris. Regardless of what the actor is "going for", was it effective with the audience or not? That is what matters. I just want to connect with the performance regardless of the internal goals/interpretations. BTW (for the rest of the board), the medical community does consider Autism/PDD/Aspergers a "disorder" regardless of one's individual sensitivity towards the word. I have scoliosis. It is a disorder. I have no control of it. I take no offense at being considered disordered. We ALL have disorders of one type or another (recurrent tonsillitis, depression, obesity, hyperactivity, whatever). It is just a word that should not be allowed to define an individual. The idea is not words, it is acceptance and understanding.
suestorm
Broadway Legend
joined:1/15/13
Jessica Chastain in The Heiress
Posted: 1/23/13 at 09:50am
the medical community does consider Autism/PDD/Aspergers a "disorder" regardless of one's individual sensitivity towards the word.

Well stated KELLEYMD! i think Miss Chastain was going for painfully shy, which i totally got and loved.
FINDINGNAMO, SNAFU, THEATERDIVE, JORDANCATALONO, LIZASHEADBAND, PALJOEY: You all claim to "IGNORE ME" I wish you would and stop constantly commenting on my posts. Thanks ...................................................................................................................................... The MOST POPULAR and DANGEROUS Poster on BWW! Banned by the PTA, PTC and the MEANGIRLS of BWW..................................................................................................................... ...Ukraine Girls really knock me out, they leave the west behind..........................
wskrs4
Chorus Member
joined:7/9/11
Jessica Chastain in The Heiress
Posted: 1/23/13 at 01:16pm
I guess what I'm saying is that I thought the character was autistic, and I think, from an actor's perspective, playing a character with an issue like that is not the easiest of things. If Jessica Chastain was not trying to convey a condition across to the audience, then yes, it confuses me because that means what I've perceived, as an audience member, is wrong and Chastain completely fell flat in the role (unlike her since I happen to think she's a good actor). I'm not sure HOW she could have gone so wrong if she wasn't going the autism route.

Also, to me it matters if the character was shy and quiet or autistic. Back in that time, they didn't know what autism was, but to me if she actually was afflicted with a condition, it makes her father's character even crueler. Not that he wasn't a jackass already, but it makes him even more cruel to hold her to a standard and hate her for something she could never be. It also slightly changes the subtext of the line re: cruelty that goes something like "yes, I've been taught well..." since that would mean that not only did she learn her social skills from those around her, but they programmed cruelty into her while trying to teach her how to act around and toward people.

followspot
Broadway Star
joined:12/27/11
Jessica Chastain in The Heiress
Posted: 1/23/13 at 02:07pm
wskrs4, The Heiress is not a new work. It is a classic play written in 1947, based on a classic novel written in 1880. It is not, nor has it ever been, about a person with autism or any type of organic impediment. There have been many marvelous interpretations of the novel and play and deep performances in the role of Catherine Sloper over the decades. It is a well-known character that has had many powerful interpretations. As the reviews you read and several of us here have explained, this current production and Chastain's performance fall short of expressing what we have seen other actresses achieve (most notably, Cherry Jones' Tony-winning performance, and Olivia de Havilland's Oscar-winning performance). If you know the work, it's clear where and why the current production is off balance. One huge factor is that a radiantly beautiful woman such as Chastain in entirely wrong for the role, as it is intrinsic to the story that Catherine appear completely unremarkable in appearance. It's the entire basis of the drama, in fact. I'm sensing that this might be why you're thinking the character must have an impediment of some sort, when it is actually familial and social factors in which Catherine is trapped. At this point you need to do some research about the play, the novel, the character, and the themes that The Heiress is actually meant to present. There are study guides online, and the 1949 film adaptation of the play is highly recommended.

I like Jessica Chastain as well, but the facts are the facts.
"Tracy... Hold Mama's waffles."
wskrs4
Chorus Member
joined:7/9/11
Jessica Chastain in The Heiress
Posted: 1/23/13 at 02:21pm
Oh I know it's not a new work and I also know it's based on a book. That shouldn't, however, stop a director from injecting some new perspective into the show (not saying that's what happened here). Just because it's not new and been done before doesn't mean that every single production until the end of time will follow the same guidelines. I get what you're saying about it classically having nothing to do with a disorder, but since that's how she played it, I wondered if it was a new take.
mar6411
Stand-by
joined:9/19/09
Jessica Chastain in The Heiress
Posted: 1/23/13 at 02:36pm
That is how you think she played it. That is not how I (and perhaps others) think she played it. It never once crossed my mind that she was anything other than shy and awkward.

"Also, to me it matters if the character was shy and quiet or autistic. Back in that time, they didn't know what autism was, but to me if she actually was afflicted with a condition, it makes her father's character even crueler. Not that he wasn't a jackass already, but it makes him even more cruel to hold her to a standard and hate her for something she could never be."

And I don't understand your comment above. If she was shy and awkward, he is still holding her to a standard and hating her for something she could never be. (your words/interpretation) I don't know how that makes him any crueler. She is the way she is - and no matter what reason. I'm not sure why it's worse. If one were shy and awkward, it would feel equally cruel and hurtful to be treated that way it would seem to me.

suestorm
Broadway Legend
joined:1/15/13
Jessica Chastain in The Heiress
Posted: 1/23/13 at 02:44pm
everyone is entitled to their own opinion, thats what art is all about

my opinion is that geeks on a message board questioning Jessica Chastain is kinda like my brother and his dork friends questioning Tom Brady...
FINDINGNAMO, SNAFU, THEATERDIVE, JORDANCATALONO, LIZASHEADBAND, PALJOEY: You all claim to "IGNORE ME" I wish you would and stop constantly commenting on my posts. Thanks ...................................................................................................................................... The MOST POPULAR and DANGEROUS Poster on BWW! Banned by the PTA, PTC and the MEANGIRLS of BWW..................................................................................................................... ...Ukraine Girls really knock me out, they leave the west behind..........................
Wynbish
Broadway Legend
joined:4/27/12
Jessica Chastain in The Heiress
Posted: 1/23/13 at 02:56pm
Such artful use of "geeks" and "dorks".
Phyllis Rogers Stone
Broadway Legend
joined:9/16/07
Jessica Chastain in The Heiress
Posted: 1/23/13 at 02:56pm
Well, you know, she's just a teenager.

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