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WhizzerMarvin TrinaJasonMendel
Broadway Legend
joined:5/26/05
The City of Conversation Previews
Posted: 4/10/14 at 11:04pm
And the hostess with the mostess on the ball is...

The fulcrum of the New York theater scene is Jan Maxwell and her oft robbed bag of Tony Awards. A season can judged by her presence in it, and after tonight it's officially a good one.

There's been some discussion here lately about how Lotte Lenya won a Tony for an off-Broadway performance and it's time to bring the tradition back!! If you can't tell, I LOVED Jan tonight. The play spans several decades and she ages, Lee Daniels' The Butler-style, throughout. The play is structured in three acts, and the second act is full of such fireworks I thought the Mitzi Newhouse was gonna blow from all the gasping, cheering and clapping.

The play itself was very interesting and reminded me of Other Desert Cities, except this time the adults are democrats and the children are republicans. It's historical, but not dry; smart, but accessible.

The supporting cast was strong, but Beth Dixon was the standout as Jan Maxwell's older sister.

I liked Catherine Zuber's costumes, and if she did the wigs as well then she deserves even more praise.

I highly recommend this.
Marie: Don't be in such a hurry about that pretty little chippy in Frisco. Tony: Eh, she's a no chip!
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bjh2114
Broadway Legend
joined:4/19/06
The City of Conversation Previews
Posted: 4/10/14 at 11:07pm
What was the run time, Whizzer?
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WhizzerMarvin TrinaJasonMendel
Broadway Legend
joined:5/26/05
The City of Conversation Previews
Posted: 4/10/14 at 11:10pm
I want to say I was on the street by 10:15. The first act is only 45 minutes, and then there's the only intermission. The third act is fairly brief.
Marie: Don't be in such a hurry about that pretty little chippy in Frisco. Tony: Eh, she's a no chip!
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RippedMan
Broadway Legend
joined:8/14/05
The City of Conversation Previews
Posted: 4/10/14 at 11:12pm
Friend is the stage manager! Can't wait to see this.
April Saul
Broadway Legend
joined:2/17/06
The City of Conversation Previews
Posted: 4/10/14 at 11:13pm
Thanks for the encouragement, Whizzer! I'd bought my member ticket some weeks back and after getting a refund on my Act One ticket, was hoping this one would be good
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WhizzerMarvin TrinaJasonMendel
Broadway Legend
joined:5/26/05
The City of Conversation Previews
Posted: 4/10/14 at 11:21pm
I think you'll enjoy this one, April. My friend and I were on such a high leaving the theater. Overheard lots of good chatter on the way out.

There are so many opportunities to insert Call Me Madam songs that they should find a way to give Jan a few musical numbers. Or they could just do the two shows in rep.
Marie: Don't be in such a hurry about that pretty little chippy in Frisco. Tony: Eh, she's a no chip!
laserphats
Swing
joined:11/28/12
The City of Conversation Previews
Posted: 4/11/14 at 12:53pm
Agreed, Whizzer. Thanks for your glowing review. I was thrilled by this show last night, and it's in especially good shape for a first preview. The material is, like you said, fiercely clever but still accessible, and it fits in Maxwell's voice like it was born there. I can't wait to see this show multiple times.
76trombones2
Swing
joined:3/11/14
The City of Conversation Previews
Posted: 4/14/14 at 05:15pm
Has anyone else seen this yet? I am going in a couple of weeks and am very excited to see Jan Maxwell!
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RippedMan
Broadway Legend
joined:8/14/05
The City of Conversation Previews
Posted: 4/16/14 at 10:48pm
Went tonight. Pretty much sold-out with a few scattered seats.

I LOVED it. Now let me preface this by the fact that I'm in my 20s and I don't follow politics maybe like I should. So the first 10/20mins I was a little confused and bored, but then the human relationships take over and the political talk starts to shape and make more sense, and I was drawn in.

The audience around me understood all the 60s political leaders, etc being thrown about and were eating it up.

I cried like a baby in Act 3. Just powerful, powerful stuff.

Maxwell is a marvel. I thought the whole cast was great. Props go to Maxwell's sister in the show for taking such a small character and making her into someone you just want to have in your family.

The only two small quibbles are the young wife. In Act 1 I found her performance so flat and boring. She eventually changes it up, but I just hated most of her choices in Act 1. And the other lady, the red head. Her character basically is there for no reason, and what she did with that character was just really terrible acting.

The design is elegant, and the lighting/direction choices are great.
stevenycguy
Broadway Star
joined:12/7/05
The City of Conversation Previews
Posted: 4/17/14 at 12:11am
I agree that this is a real winner. It spans several decades and is set in the upscale Georgetown neighborhood of Washington DC. It starts out in the 1960s and takes us through the decades all the way to President Obama's inauguration. It shows us what happens when families fight, when some people in the family are Republicans and some are Democrats. When during the day they are fighting to make laws that they believe in, despite being on opposite sides of the political spectrum. The kid who plays with the red ball and is running around the house is a joy to watch when he's young. And then we see him all grown up at the very end when President Obama is inaugurated; what he says in the present is very poignant. The key point to the story (as said by a character in this final scene, as she relates what she did in the past and what's happened in the present) is tear-inducing and simply quite beautiful. The set design and acting are top-of-the-notch. The play received a standing ovation from more than half the audience. It's one of my favorite shows of 2014. And it really should move to Broadway.
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RippedMan
Broadway Legend
joined:8/14/05
The City of Conversation Previews
Posted: 4/17/14 at 12:23am
I think the reason more of us didn't stand up is because - like me - we were too busy wiping tears away and collecting ourselves.

When I first sat down I thought "Oh great. Another play about rich white people divulging "secrets" for 2 hrs. But I loved the different twists and how the mother is liberal with a Republican son.
After Eight
Broadway Legend
joined:6/5/09
The City of Conversation Previews
Posted: 4/20/14 at 07:52am
Jan Maxwell is as good as ever, but even she can't save this hokey, unbelievable, and unpalatable play. The same political talking points are reiterated again and in as the characters go round and round the mulberry bush. This is supposed to be a play, not an exercise of the debating team. But frankly, the stilted political yammering -- or hammering -- is nevertheless preferable to the plotting and characters. An horrific Eve Harington-type is so shamelessly rude, conniving and ruthless it's a wonder her wuss of a fiancÚ -- a Harvard graduate no less, we are told--didn't see through her in two minutes. These wusses. This one makes the one in Once seem actually to have a backbone .... well, almost. The ultimatum the pair concoct to get their way is beyond outrageous. The last scene is sappy, stagey hokum.

The set is handsome.
broadfan327
Leading Actor
joined:3/20/08
The City of Conversation Previews
Posted: 5/8/14 at 11:23pm
I saw it tonight, and this is one of the better plays of the season in my opinion, and I have seen most of the new Broadway ones and some off-Broadway ones as well. Jan Maxwell is wonderful in this.
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Susanswerphone
Understudy
joined:4/26/14
The City of Conversation Previews
Posted: 5/9/14 at 04:21am
I am soooo happy to read this thread! I'm new to the message boards, but I know great writing, acting and directing and "...Conversation" certainly is all of that. I feel fortunate to have seen this tour de force in previews, will revisit it again soon, and have been telling everyone I know to make this a must-see! I'm of the age when there still were DC hostesses like Hester and can recall more than one heated familial dispute over Vietnam, gay rights, etc., ---complete with fisticuffs, tears, recrimination and my mother's famous silent treatment for days, sometimes weeks, on end! There's not a false note in the production, the entire cast is on point and Jan Maxwell is extraordinary!
ThorouglyModern2
Swing
joined:2/10/14
The City of Conversation Previews
Posted: 5/19/14 at 11:06pm
I generally prefer musicals to plays but this is one of the best theatrical experiences I have ever had. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I was so fully engrossed throughout the entire show that I was shocked intermission came so quickly. With such a small theater, there is not a bad seat in the house. Go see this before it closes!
Owen22
Broadway Legend
joined:2/24/11
The City of Conversation Previews
Posted: 5/20/14 at 01:07pm
Though I'm loathe to agree with After Eight with anything, though I somewhat surfacely enjoyed the play (and loved the great Jan Maxwell and the actress who plays her sister) I found the play eventually more of an agitprop debate than believable theatre. But again, a great actor filling out a character is more than enough sometimes and I can't say it was a wasted evening at all.
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broadwaybabe1234
Stand-by
joined:5/3/09
The City of Conversation Previews
Posted: 5/21/14 at 01:38am
Although most of the play went over my head (not a history buff of the political vein), i was floored by some of the best acting i have seen all season. THat is being from not just Ms. Maxwell but also Michael Simmons and (forgive me) the woman who played the daughter. if you can snag a ticket to this, definitely go!
[believe]
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Blockhead24
Broadway Legend
joined:8/20/09
The City of Conversation Previews
Posted: 5/21/14 at 01:46am
THat is being from not just Ms. Maxwell but also Michael Simmons and (forgive me) the woman who played the daughter

Kristen Bush?
*formerly obsessedjb*

"Make up your mind you want clarity, take what you know and then make it make sense"-N2N
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WiCkEDrOcKS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/13/04
The City of Conversation Previews
Posted: 5/21/14 at 08:58am
I liked the show quite a bit, but it wasn't without flaws. The daughter in law is a staunch republican, which means the odds are stacked against her from the get-go, in terms of having the audience sympathize with her. We don't need her to be a raging, sociopathic lunatic as well. It just seemed to be overkill. It would've been more interesting if the Republican were the sympathetic character in my opinion. Also, the daughter in law is really dynamic and interesting in the first scene but by time the second scene rolls around, she's just a bitch with virtually no redeeming qualities and her arguments with Hester verge on irritating instead of thrilling. It would've also been nice to see some bipartisanship in terms of Hester's politics and beliefs. She always seems to be the one we side with, which is fine, but the other side of the arguments could have been fleshed out more. She never seems to have much competition when it came to the poltics of the piece.

That said, this was a very entertaining show with some strong performances, particularly Maxwell's. Truly this may be my favorite performance of hers, which is saying quite a lot. She's just stunning. It's certainly stronger than a lot of the new plays that premiered on Broadway this year and definitely worth checking out if you can. Even if the play isn't 100% successful or dynamic in the way it could have been, Maxwell certainly is. And overall, she compensates for so many of the plays shortcomings. She's giving a great performance.

Also, whatever they manage to do to Maxwell between the second and third scene (no spoilers here) is nothing short of astonishing. I couldn't believe my eyes.
Current Avatar: Tony-winner Idina Menzel, delivering a sucker-punch of an 11:00 number, "Always Starting Over," in IF/THEN.
Updated On: 5/21/14 at 08:58 AM
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broadwaybelter
Broadway Legend
joined:11/26/04
The City of Conversation Previews
Posted: 5/21/14 at 12:24pm
I was there last night, too. I agree with your points regarding the flaws. I wasn't as emotionally invested as I would've hoped, but Maxwell was certainly exceptional.
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Auggie27
Broadway Legend
joined:10/13/03
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Posted: 6/29/14 at 08:08am
Finally saw it yesterday. This piece is unabashedly old fashioned in structure, style and tone, even as it shrewdly mines the divisive post-millennial political climate. It is part David Hare (especially "Secret Rapture"), part Jon Robin Baitz ("Other Desert Cities") and part Lillian Hellman melodrama. And for my money, especially in this truly exquisite production, entirely successful. The biases noted in some quibbles strike me as necessary for the play to makes its point. This is not a "fair and balanced" tract, but a savvy portrait of a particular type of political reality based modus operandi in Washington, a fading one, noted by the script. The aim here is not to present equal sides in a debate but to dramatize the price paid -- the truly personal sacrifice -- in sustaining an ideological stance. It's a fictional work set against a backdrop of tumultuous decades in this country, and makes smart points about the cost to everyone. To me it makes good sense to keep the point of view focused on the central character's impassioned and unyielding one. And what a glorious character! Jan Maxwell is scary good in this role. She's reason to see the production, but the play itself is equally fine.

This afternoon there were many tears -- after an act of people (geriatric, duly noted) talking back to the stage. "Oh no!" "She can't!" "Oh my God!" were heard, and in the Mitzi Newhouse. The play is stirring up a generation of theatergoer for whom "stirring up" seems less than likely.

Unmissable. I liked it far better than the long-winded, far more docudrama-esque play that won the Tony.


"I'm a comedian, but in my spare time, things bother me." Gary Shandling
Updated On: 6/29/14 at 08:08 AM