Review: PRU PAYNE at Arizona Theatre Company

The production runs through April 16th at the Herberger Theater Center's Center Stage in Phoenix, AZ.

By: Apr. 03, 2023
Review: PRU PAYNE at Arizona Theatre Company
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BroadwayWorld/Phoenix contributor Lee Cooley offers his review of Arizona Theatre Company's production of Pulitzer Prize nominee Steven Drukman's PRU PAYNE, directed by Sean Daniels and featuring Mimi Kennedy and Gordon Clapp. Following its acclaimed run in Tucson, the Phoenix production runs through April 16th.

Now, from the keyboard of Lee Cooley:

PRU PAYNE is a lost and found story. The title character, Prudence 'Pru' Payne (Mimi Kennedy), is a witty and sharp-tongued critic who, while being honored by her peers, starts showing signs of dementia.

Despite losing some of her memories, she makes a few new ones with Augustus 'Gus' Cudahy (Gordon Clapp) at the memory care center where they are both being evaluated by Dr. Dolan (Veronika Duerr).

Kennedy and Clapp are unbelievably candid in their roles. Although better known for her television roles like Marjorie in MOM, Kennedy debuted on Broadway as Jan during the original run of GREASE.

Clapp is well remembered for his Emmy-winning role as Det. Medavoy in NYPD BLUE, but his Broadway credits include Aaron Sorkin's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and David Mamet's GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS.

Review: PRU PAYNE at Arizona Theatre Company

Pru's son, Thomas (Tristan Turner), doesn't go by a nickname and this formality isn't lost on his former lover, Gus' son Arthur (Greg Maraio). As 'Art', Maraio gives a moving monologue in his final scene on stage.

Unlike some Alzheimer's productions, such as Florian Zeller's THE FATHER, this world premiere of PRU doesn't dwell so much on loss as it does newfound connections under very unusual circumstances.

Written by Steven Drukman, himself a former theatre critic, PRU is a journey of discovery - about oneself and one's parents. Drukman notes that "our species' tendency to forget, knowing that if we consign our aspirations to oblivion, we might drift into this cultural amnesia." The result is a memorably staged memoir with well-placed political jabs.

Whereas Zeller may have focused on a reluctant father and doting daughter, Drukman is less about conflict than he is surrender - and he does it in a caring, empathetic and often humorous way.

As Pru says, "A critic and a woman must prove herself" just as this production certainly proves itself. Make a beeline for the box office before the Phoenix run closes on April 16th.

Arizona Theatre Company ~ ~ Box Office: 1-833-ATC-SEAT (1-800-282-7328)

Venue: Herberger Theater Center ~ Center Stage ~ 222 E Monroe Street, Phoenix, AZ ~ (602) 254-7399

Photo credit to Tim Fuller:

Top photo, L to R ~ Greg Maraio, Mimi Kennedy, Tristan Turner and Gordon Clapp

Second photo, L to R ~ Mimi Kennedy, Gordon Clapp