Review Roundup: Critics Weigh in on ABOUT ALICE
Theatre for a New Audience is currently staging the world premiere of About Alice, a new play by Calvin Trillin, inspired by his 2007 memoir of the same name. The production, directed by Leonard Foglia, plays January 8-February 3, 2019 at Polonsky Shakespeare Center.
Alice Trillin, a gifted writer, educator, film producer, activist on behalf of cancer patients, and muse to her husband, the humorist Calvin Trillin, died September 11, 2001, at age 63, from complications due to treatment for lung cancer diagnosed 25 years earlier.
Reading condolence letters, Trillin realized that readers didn't know Alice beyond a "sort of an admirable sitcom character" that he had created in his books and magazine pieces. Four years after her death, New Yorker editor David Remnick suggested that Trillin consider writing about her. In 2006, New Yorker published Trillin's essay "Alice, Off the Page." About Alice, Trillin's 2007 memoir, developed from this essay. The play followed.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Jesse Green, The New York Times: It must therefore have seemed like a fine idea to have Mr. Trillin adapt the material again, this time for the stage. But the emotional terrain has shifted with the genre, so much that the restraint now feels like withholding. As a result, the dramatization of "About Alice" that opened on Sunday evening at Theater for a New Audience in Brooklyn is sweet and mild and less emotional than the book, when what you want is for it to be more so.
Thom Geier, The Wrap: But aside from a few select scenes, like their banter-filled meeting at a Manhattan cocktail party or a conversation in a hospital room after a recurrence of her lung cancer, Trillin never fully dramatizes their relationship in the traditional sense. For the most part, "About Alice" remains a one-man memory play, with occasional interjections from the subject of that one man's memory. In that sense, the show is less a two-hander than a one-hander with a giant bauble on the ring finger.
Michael Sommers, New York Stage Review: Perhaps some overly-woke people could dismiss About Alice as being merely a case of upper middle class "white people problems" as a self-identified "marginally goofy" writer is balanced by his sensible wife. But as the play goes along in its low-keyed way, it gradually reveals Alice as a quietly valiant soul who was concerned more with helping everyone around her deal with their various challenges in life rather than dwelling upon her own troubles.
Photo Credit: Gerry Goodstein