Review Roundup: THERESE RAQUIN Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!
The Broadway adaptation of THÉRÈSE RAQUIN, starring Academy and Golden Globe nominee Keira Knightley (Thérèse) in her Broadway debut, opens officially tonight, October 29, 2015 on Broadway at Studio 54. The new adaptation is written by Helen Edmundson, based upon the novel by Émile Zola, directed by Evan Cabnet.
Knightley joins Tony award winner Gabriel Ebert (Camille), Matt Ryan (Laurent) and two-time Tony award winner Judith Light (Madame Raquin), alongside David Patrick Kelly, Jeff Still, Mary Wiseman, Glynis Bell, Alex Mickiewicz, Sara Topham, and Ray Virta in the cast.
A quiet young woman with a restless spirit, Thérèse (Knightley) submits to a loveless life at the side of her weak and selfish husband played by Tony Award winner Gabriel Ebert (Matilda), and her controlling mother-in-law, played by two-time Tony Award winner Judith Light (The Assembled Parties)...until she meets his childhood friend Laurent played by Matt Ryan ("Constantine"). When their overwhelming passion spins violently out of control, they realize that love can be a dangerous game, and sometimes there is no winner.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: Director Evan Cabnet's gorgeously understated mounting of Helen Edmundson's adaptation looks like a somewhat faded oil painting come to life...The first-rate cast has Keira Knightley's introverted Thérèse subtly expressing the acceptance of her sorrow, so that when unfamiliar urges take over it allows merely the slightest change of physicality to clearly state that she's overwhelmed by raw emotions she has no idea how to control. Matt Ryan's Laurent is a master manipulator of women who is so taken with the instinctively sexual Thérèse that he, too, loses control. Gabriel Ebert's gangly and adolescently humored Camille resembles a repulsive Dickins caricature. Judith Light is quietly threatening as the aunt...Thérèse Raquin may no longer have the ability to shock audiences, except for the fact that its immorality is expressed with such thoughtful delicacy.
Ben Brantley, The New York Times: Happiness is never in the cards in this tale of murder and adultery. And that's as true for audiences at this Roundabout Theater Company production, directed by Evan Cabnet, as it is for our gal Thérèse..."Thérèse Raquin" takes the lesson of its plot's inexorability a bit too much to heart. The show is so determined to demonstrate how destiny never relaxes its stranglehold on its characters that any sparks of pleasure are snuffed out almost before they appear...Since Thérèse is a woman of few words, the focal point of both Ms. Knightley's appearance and performance is her eyes. Whether glowering in resentment at her husband and mother-in-law, or staring smolderingly at Laurent, Thérèse is the master of the basilisk stare...It's a disciplined and determined Expressionist performance. But it feels, well, unnatural in a work based on a pioneering novel of naturalism.
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: Director Evan Cabnet has encouraged the humor, passion and the horror but all those elements stewing together over the 2½-hour play eventually start to spoil. The horror doesn't really stay sustained, the love curdles oddly and the humor breaks the momentum of both...Knightley gives it her all and she's wonderful as she goes from odd duck...to lip-quivering lust...As her sickly, dismissive husband Camille, Gabriel Ebert is superb and Ryan is strong as the overwhelmed lover, but Judith Light as Camille's mother is too, well, nice. Light is supposed to be overbearing and sour but comes across as simply doting. Her triumph at the end is muted. Perhaps the show's biggest star isn't Knightley at all but Beowulf Boritt, whose set design is remarkable and sublime.
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: No disrespect to Keira Knightley, whose bristling performance in the title role of Therese Raquin ranges compellingly from suffocated imprisonment through ecstatic liberation to haunted hysteria, but the real star of director Evan Cabnet's Broadway production is the design team. Beginning with an austere canvas of deadening gray that engulfs the play's antiheroine, Beowulf Boritt's imaginative sets -- daubed in lighting designer Keith Parham's painterly shadings -- boldly evoke the loveless marriage at the center of Emile Zola's novel. But British playwright Helen Edmundson's adaptation is a mixed bag, falling into traps that may be unavoidable in any literal treatment of this material for contemporary audiences.
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: Gabriel Ebert, who won a Tony for his music-hall turn as Mr. Wormwood in "Matilda," brings the same goofy sensibility to Camille Raquin...But even for such a bona-fide fool as Camille...the characterization is much too light-hearted (and empty-headed) for this Grand Guignol tale of murderous lust and obsession...Knightley is infected with the same stupid-bug...she slouches around her mother-in-law's bourgeois flat looking petulant and behaving rudely in front of visitors...Knightley hangs onto Therese's girlish demeanor until Laurent puts her out of her misery by seducing her -- at which point, Knightley comes alive and delivers Zola's lushly romantic sentiments with the exuberant joy of a woman famished for love and ripe for a lusty affair...Getting rid of the buffoonish Camille brings out the best in everyone...Knightley and Ryan are ravishing -- and articulate -- as these fierce bourgeois Macbeths, undone by their own greed and passion.
Adam Feldman, Time Out NY: Evan Cabnet's production, with its handsome set by Beowulf Boritt, does atmospheric justice to Thérèse's desperation: When she and Laurent meet for a tryst, his cramped artist's garret hangs in the middle of the stage, like a cloud. Helen Edmundson's cold-eyed thriller doesn't shy from the lurid misanthropy of Emile Zola's 1867 novel (a tale of adultery and murder and their brutal retribution) or its gothic, Poe-esque denouement. But it does give a sharp sense of the limited options available to women. Thérèse may be a shark -- the word in French is requin -- but you pity her the way you might a shark in an aquarium.
Linda Winer, Newsday: Knightley's Thérèse has the passive, chiseled face of a cameo or a woman frozen on an old coin. Just watching her watch the others is meaningful...Director Evan Cabnet, in his highest-profile assignment as a Roundabout associate artist, meticulously sculpts the many scenes into a seamless, multi-textured, closed universe that opens up when characters venture into the perilous outside world with its beckoning river...There are enough red herrings for a sneaky, old-time mystery, enough steamy clutches for a modern bodice-ripper and plenty of Knightley to cement her reputation here as a serious stage actress.
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: Certainly, fans who enjoy watching [Keira} tackle torment will find much to savor in Roundabout Theatre Company's new staging...Knightley's Thérèse tiptoes through the first scene of this production...Then Knightley is alone on stage, gasping for breath; we learn that Thérèse, the daughter of a sailor and a Nigerian woman, feels physically oppressed, and runs to the river for relief...The inevitable carnal encounters that follow, as staged by director Evan Cabnet, can be almost comical in their pained intensity...Cabnet's production succeeds largely because it doesn't try to inject any subtlety into the psycho-sexual histrionics emphasized in Edmundsen's adaptation...The most nuanced humanity here comes from Judith Light's splendid, haunting performance as Madame Raquin.
Robert Kahn, NBC New York: Knightley, the English actress with such admirable range, is fine as the title character, something of a caged animal who makes a brutal grasp for true love...For how well-assembled director Evan Cabnet's production is, rest assured the figures in this update of Zola's 1867 story...are still falling to pieces. The atmospheric production design also underscores the fact that no one here is quite functioning in reality...Knightley is awkward in the parts of Edmundson's well-paced adaptation where awkwardness is required. I never got a sense of her Thérèse as deeply miserable. Rather, she's rabbity during the play's early scenes and curiously dispassionate later on, even once she begins her affair...Ryan, as Laurent, is more effective...It's a credit to Ryan that he never allows Laurent to come across as a shallow Lothario.
Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal: Any way you gnaw it, though, "Thérèse Raquin" is a dreary hambone that once was shocking but is now quaint, and Helen Edmundson...has done no better by Zola. The pacing is arthritic...As for Ms. Knightley, she gives the kind of flat, underprojected performance you'd expect from an untrained Broadway debutante with limited stage experience. Her deficiencies are underlined by the excellent acting of Gabriel Ebert and Matt Ryan, who respectively play Thérèse's husband and lover. Beowulf Boritt designed the easy-on-the-eye Monet-style set, while Josh Schmidt, America's finest composer of incidental music for the stage, fills the air with hauntingly cloudy harmonies. If only their talents had been joined in the service of a better script -- and a stronger star!
Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News: There's enough real water in "Thérèse Raquin" to float a row boat, but not a drop of sexual tension. Without high heat and funky musk, this wannabe erotic thriller starring Keira Knightley is bloodless and all wet. Too bad. It makes for a dispiriting Broadway debut for Knightley...she never finds traction in this choppy adaptation. Helen Edmundson's script is filled with microscenes that start and stop without impact...Director Evan Cabnet relies on disembodied voices and eerie sounds effects to show the pair's haunted minds. Just in time for Halloween, "Thérèse Raquin" and the A-list actress playing her have found themselves stranded in a corny spookhouse. Scary.
Jeremy Gerard, Deadline: Keira Knightley...is making her Broadway debut in Thérèse Raquin, and not since Donna Reed donned spectacles and pulled her hair back in a tight bun as a spinster librarian in It's A Wonderful Life has so much effort gone into draining all the sex from a sexy star. It worked: Helen Edmundson's new adaptation of the 1867 Émile Zola novel (and, six years later, play) of illicit passion and its consequences is DOA, victim of its own literal dark-mindedness...there might have been some fun if there were a smidgen of electricity between Knightley and Ryan. That would have offset the pervading gloom of Beowulf Boritt's uncharacteristically dispiriting sets (there's momentary comic relief when lovers and husband set out in a rowboat on an upstage river) and the fussiness of Edmundson's script...There's a detachment between the stars I can only describe as fatal, no pun intended.
Robert Hofler, TheWrap: In her own Broadway debut, Keira Knightley plays the title character, and she also has been directed (by Evan Cabnet) to be utterly still, at least for most of the first act. Edmundson gives Therese very little to say in the beginning...When Knightley is able to inject humor into a performance...the results are marvelous. When she's wholly dramatic, as in "Anna Karenina" or this "Therese Raquin," she's monotonous. The larger problem is that Edmundson and Cabnet haven't decided whether "Therese Raquin" is a great tragedy or some Grand Guignol potboiler...Not everything goes wrong. Ryan, the show's major piece of eye candy, is appropriately studly...Judith Light as Therese's mother-in-law makes the character's tiresomeness almost bearable. But even she can't escape Edmundson and Cabnet's need to go over the top.
Jesse Green, Vulture: ...Knightley...makes a stark and somewhat counterintuitive Broadway debut. She is compelling and articulate, especially when silent, and brings to the morose tale the banked-fire quality that seems to illuminate such material from within...The drawn-out dénouement...is basically a slow return to the grimness of the reality in which Thérèse (and the others) were always trapped. That grimness is beautifully realized, at least; Beowulf Boritt's sets, lit exquisitely by Keith Parham, are all gesso and grisaille, suggesting a prepared canvas with no painting on it...Even a relatively short novel like this one offers too large a meal. The set-ups are lovely, and then comes the hasty glut. The director Evan Cabnet's unusually handsome staging, dominated by the sculptural deployment of the actors' bodies, often in silhouette, in a way highlights this failing, making the massive repression of the opening scenes powerfully eloquent but offering diminishing returns thereafter.
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: So why have an affair? How about if you're Keira Knightley? The very capable British screen actress...has the chance to explore that question with paparazzi-free impunity by playing the title role in the Roundabout Theatre Company's new production of Emile Zola's "Therese Raquin"...on a spectacular set from the redoubtable Beowulf Boritt that is at once expressionistic, operatic and aquatic...The overarching problem with this production is that neither Knightley nor Ryan evidences any joy in their initial coupling -- I speak not, necessarily, of wild partying of un-Zola-esque frivolity, but merely of a palpable connection, of anticipated pleasure. Even their extramarital sex is perfunctory -- and executed with a positively unsettling rapidity of the kind one might suffer with one's husband, maybe, but surely not with one's chosen lover.
Jonathan Mandell, DC Theatre Scene: If Knightley sheds the usual star aura, the 30-year-old actress takes stunning advantage of the techniques she has learned in her 20-year screen career...For the first half hour of the play, Knightley says hardly a word as Thérèse...her stone-faced expression registers the merest flicker of repressed feeling, but it's all we need to understand what she's going through...What keeps the story from feeling distant in this effective adaptation by playwright Helen Edmundson -- what keeps the modern cynic from thinking "Why couldn't she just get a divorce?" -- is a production that engages our senses even more than our sense...The director takes advantage of Knightley's expressive face by fiddling around with cinematically inspired close-ups.
Christopher Kelly, NJ.com: The screws turn and turn and then turn some more in "Thérèse Raquin," a terrifically nerve-wracking, beautifully mounted new drama that also marks Oscar-nominated actress Keira Knightley's Broadway debut...this story of illicit love, murder and madness -- directed with intensity and great invention by Evan Cabnet -- turns out to be one of the best plays on Broadway this year...Edmundson and Cabnet take a fresh, psychologically acute approach, using long silences and repeatedly isolating Thérèse onstage in order to draw us deeper and deeper into the woman's fractured mindset. Knightley's performance, too, is extraordinary; she employs unnerving, almost animalistic stares and a fierce-jaw to portray both Thérèse's anguish and her boundless capacity for deceit.
Alexis Soloski, The Guardian: Emile Zola's novel Thérèse Raquin, published in 1867, portrays an adulterous couple driven to murder the woman's husband. It was, depending on your preferred critic, a success, a scandal, a triumph of scientific realism, a shambles of cheap pornography. It was not a bore. It was not a comedy. So something has gone wrong with the Roundabout's lugubrious and giggly adaptation...The actual sex shown -- no foreplay, five thrusts, breathless collapse -- is not precisely beguiling...Edmundson's adaptation is often cinematic and Cabnet seems like he would rather be directing a film. Scenes fade in and out; far too many moments show Thérèse looking on languishingly...Perhaps a camera would lend emotional variety and substance to Knightley's performance...[she] seems oddly flat here, though predictably shapely in the period costuming and somehow charismatic for all her lack of affect.
The Telegraph: Keira Knightley doesn't say much during Thérèse Raquin...For much of a grimly deliberate evening, Knightley appears shoulders hunched, indrawn, her eyes darting about as if in search of escape...Knightley's commitment to this latest part is never in doubt. Making a measured entrance at the very start that doesn't give a clap-happy Broadway public the chance to applaud, she communicates the sullen intensity of a woman not easily given over to cheer...the venture certainly looks like a million bucks...Beowulf Boritt's arresting (and restless) designs embrace painterly abstraction and an onstage river as well as a detailed Parisian abode that at one point looks as if it is going to swallow Therese whole.
Stephen Collins, BritishTheatre.com: ...the remarkable design from Beowulf Boritt for Roundabout's production of Thérèse Raquin...is an integral part of the emotional and dramatic fabric of the production and, without it, this production might be limp and ineffectual...There are no complaints about the casting. Judith Light is in sensational form as the manipulative Madame, portraying a clear sense of venom dripping from every helpful suggestion or smiling acknowledgment...Gabriel Ebert is properly ghastly as the smarmy, intolerable bore, Camille...Matt Ryan is extremely attractive as Laurent...It's not just Ryan's physical beauty, but the way he makes the character insinuating, beguiling and slightly, excitingly, dangerous...Kiera Knightley...can make a silent gaze speak volumes and she is at home with creating visual images of stunning power. She is silent for much of the play, but not the slightest bit in the background for that...when she does speak, she makes every word count, giving a lyrical beauty to many passages and a tired, humiliated fear to others.
David Finkle, Huffington Post: Everyone connected with Therese Raquin seems to know what a powerhouse it is as a portrait of 19th-century middle-class French malaise. It's a shame that Cabnet hasn't quite propelled that past the footlights.
Brendan Lemon, Financial Times: Why the role of Thérèse continues to attract so many well-known actors is not a surprise. Even with its melodrama, the story furnishes a kind of female awakening that is as tempting to young women as one of Laurent's smouldering glances. Knightley invests Thérèse with a splendid abandon but her line readings can lack variety, and overall this production casts too few sparks.
Peter Marks, Washington Post: As for the vehicle Knightley has chosen for her Broadway debut, a confoundingly dreary adaptation of Emile Zola's steamy 1867 novel "Therese Raquin": one is hard-pressed to find much in it of interest, or even of a marginally stirring nature.
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus