Review Roundup: MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON Starring Laura Linney Opens On Broadway

By: Jan. 15, 2020
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My Name is Lucy Barton

My Name is Lucy Barton opens tonight, Wednesday, January 15, 2020 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre (261 West 47th Street).

Four-time Emmy Award winner, two-time Golden Globe Award winner, three-time Academy Award and four-time Tony Award nominee Laura Linney returns to Broadway in a haunting new solo play adapted by Rona Munro from the bestselling novel by Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout.

Linney plays Lucy Barton, a woman who wakes after an operation to find - much to her surprise - her mother at the foot of her bed. They haven't seen each other in years. During their days-long visit, Lucy tries to understand her past, works to come to terms with her family, and begins to find herself as a writer.

Let's see what the critics are saying!

Ben Brantley, The New York Times: The title character of "My Name Is Lucy Barton," Rona Munro's crystalline stage adaptation of Elizabeth Strout's 2016 novel, is hardly a woman of mystery. On the contrary, as embodied with middle-American forthrightness by a perfectly cast Laura Linney, in the production that opened Wednesday at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater, Lucy may be the most translucent figure now on a New York stage.

Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: On paper, the script of My Name is Lucy Barton is merely 36 pages long, and it reads nicely as a short story. Linney's performance is fine, but, as solo pieces go, the assignment doesn't appear especially demanding. New York is famous for being a city where people arrive to disconnect from their upbringing to reinvent themselves, and those who have escaped from a world where they don't fit the norm may find themselves better connected to this play.

Adam Feldman, Time Out New York: Linney comes most alive when she's inhabiting Lucy's mother, pushing her voice into a nasal Midwestern bark and delivering juicy storytelling monologues. It's when she is narrating the story as Lucy that the play runs into trouble. Writing and reading are solitary events; public performance is not, and the literary qualities of the text, though often lovely, prove an obstacle: The very fine Linney works hard to suggest an interior struggle behind the smooth, polished reticence of the words-at several points, she verges on tears-yet it is hard to shake the sense that Lucy is writing for us, not speaking to us.

Matt Windman, amNY: Had the novel been converted into a straightforward, multi-actor drama, many would probably have complained that Strout's meditative authorial voice got lost in the process. But in its current form, "My Name is Lucy Barton" is not unlike a glorified, live audio book. Coincidentally or not, it was just announced that an audio version of the play with Linney will soon be released.

Thom Geier, The Wrap: Alone on stage for the 90-minute running time of the show, which opened Wednesday at Broadway's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, Linney skillfully segues between the authorial voice of Lucy and the sharp Midwestern twang of her mother without ever veering into caricature. Bob Crowley's simple set design, supplemented by Luke Halls' video projections, helps set the scene for Linney's performance, which maintains a cunning sense of narrative progression even as she digresses far off the beaten path. (The adaptation is by Rona Munro.) Under Richard Eyre's nuanced direction, she maintains full command of the story even as it meanders from Lucy's hospital stay to flashbacks to her hardscrabble, TV-free Illinois upbringing to glimpses at a future success borne of sacrifice and loss.

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: In her books Olive Kitteridge and Anything is Possible, Elizabeth Strout adopts a complex linked-story structure to explore character and milieu. But her slender, tremendously affecting 2016 novel, My Name is Lucy Barton, is as direct, deceptively straightforward and singularly focused as its title implies. At the same time, it unfolds a wealth of seemingly unrelated mini-narratives, personal insights and half-buried memories to draw the complicated connection of a daughter to her flinty mother, reconciling with the legacy of a miserable childhood. That duality, between the emotional immediacy of the present and the impressionistic filter of the past, is distilled with faithful exactitude in Laura Linney's finely calibrated performance in the title role.

Melissa Rose Bernardo, New York Stage Review: Theirs isn't an I-love-you-to-the-moon-and-back relationship. Theirs is: "Mommy do you love me?" "When your eyes are closed." When things get too serious-when Lucy's doctor tells her she might need surgery-mom high-tails it back to LaGuardia. But Rona Munro's play-and Strout's book-is more about what's not said: what happens when our eyes are closed, what happens when we're thousands of miles (and worlds away) from our family.

Steven Suskin, New York Stage Review: Transforming My Name Is Lucy Barton from page to stage in such engrossing manner is quite a feat on the part of the actor, as well as Strout, Munro, and Eyre. Linney gives an astounding performance, circling the truth (whatever that might be) with a supreme ambivalence. The overall effect, on that almost bare platform set within the stage of the Friedman, being that she-the actress and the character-is thoroughly, and nicely, compelling.

Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast: The award-laden Laura Linney can spin gold from pretty much anything, as proven in projects as diverse as Tales of the City, Ozark, and The Big C. Not just that, she can make that gold intelligible, epic, and also everyday. Her latest Broadway play, My Name is Lucy Barton-opening tonight (to Feb 29, Samuel J. Friedman Theatre)-features a commanding solo performance (by Linney) in service of an underpowered play.

Allison Adato, Entertainment Weekly: That both of these women are portrayed by Laura Linney is the neat trick of Lucy Barton. In an enthralling performance, Linney embodies both memoirist and memory. Did Lucy's mother even show up, or was she a hospital fever dream? She certainly sounds authentic, and has a real effect on Lucy when she jostles the worst of her daughter's past to the surface. The play, a 90-minute one-act, is a monster of a monologue: Realistic in reflecting the ways that recollections can be inconsistent and tangential, but all the more difficult to memorize for being so. Linney's delivery is seamless. (The show's sound cues, intrusive here, suggest music wafting in from another patient's room; neither the actor nor the audience need them.)

Johnny Oleksinski, The New York Post: That's Laura Linney, the venerable actress, who stars in the one-woman play, adapted from Elizabeth Strout's novel, that opened on Broadway Wednesday night. It's a skilled performance that employs the actress's signature move: commanding the stage while remaining genteel and dignified.

Greg Evans, Deadline: We know, or strongly suspect, very early in the play that a happy mother-daughter ending isn't likely, at least not in any traditional dramatic way. What My Name is Lucy Barton does instead - in its writing, in Eyre's tender direction, in Linney's compassionate performance - is provide a setting in which the women can come to some understanding about their relationship and maybe themselves. Their successes and failures will haunt Lucy - and her audience - for a very long time.

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: The takeaway from Broadway's "My Name is Lucy Barton," the rich and complex new solo play at the Manhattan Theatre Club's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, based on the 2016 novel by Elizabeth Strout and luminously performed by Laura Linney, is that you can move to a world of Starbucks, progressive politics and vegan-friendly journalism - cities where you can't even glimpse the sky from your bedroom window - and yet, eventually, it is as if you never moved at all. Such is the magnetic, lifelong hold exerted by the circumstances of our youth.

Joe Westerfield, Newsweek: For 90 minutes or so, Linney gives a captivating-no, several captivating-performances, telling and living the story of Lucy Barton's life. As present-day Lucy she is closest to the Laura Linney most fans know from hosting Masterpiece or Love Actually: charismatic, smart, self-assured, yet vulnerable. As her mother, she is nasally blunt and distant but loving in her own way. As younger Lucy, at least in the presence of her mother, she is submissive, sad and a little scared.

Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Theatre Guide: The striking special effect in this Manhattan Theatre Club co-presentation with the London Theatre Company at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on Broadway is Linney herself, a Tony nominee for The Crucible, Sight Unseen, Time Stands Still and The Little Foxes. She shines Chrysler bright. She's a master of using stillness, a sidelong glance, an expressive gesture, but her voice stands out most. Lucy speaks with warmth and vigor. Sunshine drains from her mom's voice, whose Midwest ayec-cent is borderline cartoonish. Still, that vocal exaggeration works. It's Lucy's story and she can tell it the way she wants to.

David Cote, Theater News Online: My Name Is Lucy Barton, declares Manhattan Theatre Club's latest prestige import from London, to which the only sensible answer is, "And why should I care?" Over the next 90 minutes, the sparkling Laura Linney, delivering a script by Rona Munro based on the 2016 bestselling novel by Elizabeth Strout, labors mightily to dispel such apathy. Granted, it's hard to resist Linney's charms; the stage veteran turns in such fresh, luminous performances. Recall her gleefully bitchy Regina in 2016's The Little Foxes in this very same theater (the Samuel J. Friedman). So you arrive brimming with positivity and confidence. Sadly, that confidence ebbs slowly as this inert monologue chugs along, telling a familiar and stiffly novelistic tale of class trauma passed from mothers to daughters down the years.

Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker: Strout's language, deftly adapted for the stage by Rona Munro, is simple in the way of a coiled pot or a Shaker chair, a solid, unfussy construction whose elegance lies in its polished unity, and Linney, radiating warmth and lucidity, is just the right actor to bring it to life. Winding through dense tracts of script, her ninety-minute performance is a feat of subtle bravura.

Helen Shaw, Vulture: My Name Is Lucy Barton flops. It doesn't flop hard - with its limited ambition, it has no height from which to fall. But it does collapse. Twenty minutes in, every card in its deck is already on the table. It has established its suppressed-tears tone, and it has assured us that there will be no writerly interventions (by adapter Rona Munro) nor staging choices (by Richard Eyre) to make the beautiful book Strout wrote into a functional theater text. What then unfolds is a dull lesson in the difference between what's needed on the page and on the stage.

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