BWW Review: TURNING PAGE at Dixon Place is a Tour de Force
In the one-woman show TURNING PAGE, Angelica Page takes on perhaps the role of her career - that of her real-life mother, Geraldine Page, who was theater, Hollywood and Actors Studio royalty. A daunting role, to be sure.
Angelica says at the top of the piece that her mother asked her to see to it that her story was told. Eventually, Angelica decided to "channel" her mother in this way to keep the iconic actress' legacy alive.
Geraldine Page was considered by many to be the best actress of her generation. She was a contemporary of other Actors Studio graduates Marlon Brando, James Dean, Eva Marie Saint and Montgomery Clift, to name a few. She was in 18 Broadway shows, not to mention numerous successes Off-Broadway, and was nominated for four Tony Awards. She starred in such films as "Sweet Bird of Youth" with Paul Newman, "Summer and Smoke," "Pete 'n Tillie," and Woody Allen's "Interiors." She was nominated for eight Oscars and finally won for playing a much older woman in "A Trip to Bountiful."
Then, in 1987, at the young age of 62, Geraldine died suddenly of a heart attack. At the time, she was starring on Broadway in Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit." Angelica was just 23 years old at the time. Now, 30 years later - after workshopping the show for a few years - Angelica embodies her mother on stage. I can only imagine what a cathartic and emotional journey it has been. Freud would have a field day.
Angelica looks a lot like Geraldine, especially when she puts on the various wigs and sunglasses that she pulls from antique suitcases on stage. Since Angelica only talks to the audience briefly as herself at the beginning and end of the show, however, we have to read between the lines to discern how she truly felt about her mother, as well as her father, Rip Torn.
In the words of Geraldine, Torn doesn't come off well, as he cheated on his wife repeatedly and got another woman pregnant while they were married. One thing seems certain, though - Geraldine was a larger than life character for her daughter, just as she was for the rest of us, and apparently as theatrical in life as she was on stage.
Geraldine also had her share of dalliances, as she tells us - "through" Angelica - about her affairs with Marlon Brando and her beloved James Dean (a loss she never got over). In the process, Angelica also does a spot-on impression of actress Elizabeth Ashley.
Angelica as her mother drops so many names during the show, in fact, that you'd need a vacuum cleaner to pick all of them up. Besides Geraldine's affairs with Brando and Dean and her marriage to Rip Torn, we hear about Tennessee Williams reading Angelica to sleep and trying to steal her boyfriend when she was 14. Hervé Villechaize of "Fantasy Island" also taught the young girl how to dance.
It's an interesting device learning about Angelica's atypical childhood through her mother's voice - about how she rebelled against her parents, wishing for more order in a household that must have felt a bit dangerously free for a child, and how she at first decided not to become an actress. The bug did bite, however, and Angelica became an accomplished actress in her own right, performing on and off Broadway and in films like "The Sixth Sense."
Throughout the show, we hear snippets of audio from Geraldine's films, as well as some of her favorite music. At the beginning and the end, we're shown home movies, some of which include Geraldine with Angelica as a toddler.
As directed by Wilson Milam, Angelica's writing comes alive in a true tour de force performance - a valentine to a mother, a woman, and a seminal actress that we all lost too soon.
The TURNING PAGE playing schedule is as follows: Monday, February 27th at 7:30PM; Thursday, March 2nd at 7:30 PM; Thursday, March 9th at 7:30 PM; Friday, March 10th at 7:30 PM; Wednesday, March 15th at 7:30 PM; Thursday, March 16th at 7:30 PM; Wednesday, March 22nd at 7:30 PM; Saturday, March 25th at 2:00 PM; Thursday, March 30th at 7:30 PM; Saturday, April 1st at 2:00 PM; Thursday, April 6th at 7:30 PM; Saturday, April 8th at 2:00 PM.
Tickets are $25 in advance, $27 at the box office and $20 for seniors and students. Tickets can be purchased by visiting dixonplace.org/performances/turning-page or by calling 866-811-4111.
Photo Credit: Peter Yesley