Review Roundup: What Did the Critics Think of Playwrights Horizons' WIVES?
Wives traverses time and place, from the brawny castles of 16th Century France (where King Henry II is about to die in the aftermath of a joust), to the rugged plains of 1960s Idaho (at the freshly dug site of Ernest Hemingway's, aka Big Ern's, grave), to the strapping fortresses of 1920s India (where Maharaja Madho Singh II has fallen "under the influence of his travel partner and fave concubine the noted WITCH Roop Rai"). In each setting, we're introduced to the Wives and paramours of these Great Men-and shown what happens once the crushing weight of their Greatness has been lifted.
The show officially opened last night, September 16, for a run through October 6.
Let's see what the critics are saying...
Ben Brantley, The New York Times: But as the focus keeps shifting, the energy dissipates. The play starts to feel like a stoned brainstorming session in a college dorm room, whose participants segue from delighted goofiness into sloppy, sentimental sincerity. Like such gatherings, "Wives" doesn't quite know when to call it a night.
Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: Directed with sharp comic finesse by Margot Bordelon and performed by a crackling good ensemble of four, Wives merrily barrels through its compact 80 minute running time until seamlessly blending into delivering its poignant message of not allowing those who would dominate women do so by dividing them.
Sara Holdren, Vulture: Wives sits on the lighter end of the Exorcism Play spectrum, its tone for the most part winking and exuberant, its best moments when that exuberance stays weird. Backhaus's wackiness often serves as a direct antidote for tendency towards schmaltz, and her play is always stronger when it's less dewy-eyed. The production's quartet of quick-shifting actors flourish under Margot Bordelon's crisp, comically assured direction: There's genuine warmth and readiness in their performances. They're there for each other, and watching them is like watching an enthusiastic came of four-square.
Michael Sommers, New York Stage Review: For all of its clever bits, the sporadically entertaining Wives at best offers a mild commentary upon the unfair way that patriarchal history has treated women. Although the work proves to be relatively insubstantial, the breezy tone of director Margot Bordelon's swiftly-paced production makes everything go down agreeably enough.
David Walters, New York Theatre Guide: I need to highlight the wonderful acting that provided the updraft and roars of laughter that helped to keep this piece in the air: Purva Bedi, Adina Verson, Aadya Bedi and Sathya Sridharan each brought their own talents in character creation and personalities to fluidly fabricate a tight and strong ensemble that effortlessly shoulders the weight of the material and the magnitude of history that it plays with. They each have their star-turn and wallow in the glory of it with impunity. I must also mention a big part of the excellent ensemble of this piece was the technical crew that added so much to the life and magic of this play.
Marc Miller, Talking B'Way: Wives surely would benefit from another draft or two, to excise the needless verbal detours and perhaps give us more narrative to chew on. It's full of feeling, though, and if Backhaus's choices of time and place feel a little arbitrary, her fervent entreaty - give women more choices, more roles, more status-quo-subversion opportunities - comes ringing through.
Sandi Durell, Theater Pizzazz: The cast comes together to seek, to listen, to question, to wait... to express feelings of relief, regret, fear, despair, to explain, explore, search and realize 'everything about you is right.' Reid Thompson creates the multi time period scenic design and Valérie Thérèse Bart the costumes. The cast, playing multiple roles, is uniformly at the top of their game.
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus