Review Roundup: THE OLD FRIENDS
In this World Premiere play by Signature Legacy Playwright Horton Foote, matriarch Mamie Borden and the remaining members of two longtime Texas farming families await a visit from Mamie's son Hugo and his wife Sybil. When Sybil arrives with alarming news, old friends on opposing sides must confront the issues surrounding legacy, loyalty, and the meaning of happiness that have hounded them for generations. Helmed by Michael Wilson, director of Signature's acclaimed 2009 production of The Orphans' Home Cycle and the current critically acclaimed Broadway production of The Trip to Bountiful, The Old Friends is an absorbing and vital chapter in Foote's beloved, distinctly American body of work.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Ben Brantley, New York Times: This means that "The Old Friends" can border dangerously, if enjoyably, on camp. You could imagine the hardened and desperate Julia, clinging to youth by her enameled nails, being portrayed by Charles Busch. And the talented and reliable Ms. Cox doesn't entirely avoid that impression, or the feeling that her Julia is a goldfish out of water in the muddy streams of Harrison.
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: Foote's unforgiving character study of Julia is matched and outclassed by his even nastier portrait of her "friend" and nemesis, Gertrude Hayhurst Sylvester Ratliff. Played by Buckley in bravura style and with great gusto, Gertrude is the prima diva in this crowd, a not-so-subtle caricature of a Texas matron of a certain age and social class: recently widowed, seriously alcoholic, and indecently rich - so rich that she's grown accustomed to getting whatever she wants just by pointing at it. Buckley takes this marvelous monster to her heart, giving free rein to her acquisitive greed and making no apologies for her vulgarity.
Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal: I expect that Mr. Foote would have done a certain amount of additional tinkering on "The Old Friends" had he lived to see this production in rehearsal. The first-act exposition scene gets the play off to a slowish, top-heavy start, while a fair number of lines need a coat of authorial polish that they didn't receive. But none of this matters more than momentarily: You'll be swept up in the story almost before you know it, and Mr. Wilson's cast easily makes the rough places plain.
Wilborn Hamilton, Huffington Post: An all-round excellent cast brings each of the characters into focus. Veanne Cox as Julia is slithery as a seductress who will stop at nothing to bed her man, provided the vodka keeps flowing. The estimable Lois Smith is a study in pathos as Mamie Borden, and Cotter Smith is convincing as Howard, a weakling playboy suddenly finding manly fortitude. And Adam LeFevre delivers a fine turn as Julia's apathetic and pickled husband, Albert.
Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter: The playwright had a long association with the theater company, which has produced many of his works. So it's not surprising that this posthumous production of one of his more flawed efforts is being presented in such an obviously loving fashion.
Joe Dzeimianowicz, New York Daily News: That can't camouflage moments that reek of shrill soap opera - louder, less gentle and more cartoonish than Foote's best works. And drunker. Liquor flows freely in this colorful character study about resilience and patience.