No one plays Jewish mothers with secrets better than Linda Lavin...You recognize these women right away, because Lavin plays them so hilariously to New York Jewish type: She has a cartoonist's control and economy of line. But to recognize them is not, it turns out, to know them...Greenberg's writing is elegant and keenly epigrammatic...Directed with canny ambiguity by Lynne Meadow, Our Mother's Brief Affair lets you to wonder how much this scandal has been retouched. But there is no doubt as to the casual mastery that Lavin, at 78, brings to the part. Shifting in and out of the past, elevating one-liners to three-dimensionality, she brings a lifetime of command to the stage. She owns this part and claims it like nobody's business but her own.
OUR MOTHER'S BRIEF AFFAIR Broadway Reviews
Reviews of Our Mother's Brief Affair on Broadway. See what all the critics had to say and see all the ratings for Our Mother's Brief Affair including the New York Times and More...
To describe Linda Lavin as flawless in "Our Mother's Brief Affair" suggests we went looking for flaws, which could hardly be less true. Lavin's singular qualities - the voice that grates and comforts at the same time, the way she expresses an aside with little more than a deep sigh - could, at this point in her rich career, have frozen into a kind of tragicomic Kabuki. Instead, once again, the actress has channeled her special gifts into another in a seemingly infinite variety of smart, disappointed grown-ups who, in lesser hands, might just be Jewish monster-moms. Best of all, Lavin is challenged here by playwright Richard Greenberg's lean, lush dialogue, an intimate plot that goes in surprising directions and a character written with as much underlying compassion as overriding impatience.
It can't be easy for anyone to live up to Mr. Greenberg's analytical eloquence, especially in a lyrical memory play in which the object of his descriptions is often required to stand mute and embody what's being said about her. Yet throughout this Manhattan Theater Club production, directed a shade too tentatively by Lynne Meadow, Ms. Lavin's poses unfailingly match, and even amplify, Mr. Greenberg's exquisite prose. Anna is but the latest addition to a memorable gallery of sharp-tongued Jewish mothers created by Ms. Lavin during the past several decades...But none of those roles asked quite as much of her as Anna, who is required to exist in both middle and old age, in recollection and reality, sometimes all at once. Ms. Lavin fulfills these demands with such thoroughness and subtlety that I wish the play that surrounds her were more compellingly realized.
Apologies are in order, yes. Here we have another geriatric comedy--of the genre popularly known as "the Linda Lavin play"--pleasantly steaming along, courtesy of heavy lifting by Linda Lavin herself. Suddenly, a big mystery emerges; without said big mystery, there'd be little upon which to build the second act. To wit: the fellow playing the man with whom the mother of the title is having the affair, says "I'm David Greenglass."
Linda Lavin is alternately sardonic and fragile in the New York premiere of Richard Greenberg's drama "Our Mother's Brief Affair"...The notion of "legacy" weighs heavily in the drama, which touches on themes such as the suburban dream, and the desire, when one's life is nearing its end, "to be known"...Lavin...paints a balanced portrait here, as a Long Island mom who dutifully raised two kids despite being in a marriage that was never romantic... Greenberg...is making a point about "scale," that some loads we carry through life-the burdens that bring us shame-are worse than others, and that after a point we must forgive ourselves. It's a point I'd gander he might have made more elegantly without the plot twist, but nonetheless, with Lavin leading the cast, it's a beautifully performed play.
If the playwright Richard Greenberg didn't write the role for Linda Lavin, he might as well have, so perfectly does it suit and flatter her. It may in fact suit and flatter her too well; sometimes one would like to see Lavin clawing her way out of a role instead of slipping so smoothly into it. Here, she wears Anna as fetchingly as Anna wears the perfectly cut Burberry trench coat she imbues with talismanic powers of mysterious romance. It is just such a romance that forms the central (and really the only) plot of this entertaining but threadbare play...If I had to guess, I'd say that Greenberg got trapped (much as Anna does) by what must have felt like a daring idea.
Fortunately, one couldn't imagine a better Anna than Lavin, who's still a stunner at 78...and can stop a show with a mere raise of her eyebrow. Moreover, she can pull off a sitcom-territory line like, "His arms came around me, strong and soft. He was wearing Aramis." Late in the play, Greenberg rewards Lavin with a meaty memory-within-a-memory monologue...But such sudden, overwhelming sadness is too much, too late. A Richard Greenberg play at Manhattan Theatre Club is theatrical comfort food; this is his 11th MTC production. Somehow, Our Mother's Brief Affair got overcooked. C
The play is filled with attempts at wit, like the one Mom delivers about her son being a "string terrorist." Or statements that "the potato chip is nature's most perfect food," which Lavin delivers as if she's quoting Oscar Wilde. The actress is a real trouper. "Affair" is nearly a drama-less drama. Nearly every conflict presented is resolved by someone on stage telling us how it is resolved...Likewise, character traits are thrown out and dismissed.
BWW Review: Linda Lavin's Sublime, But Richard Greenberg's OUR MOTHER'S BRIEF AFFAIR is Hardly One To Remember
The playwright probably has something to say about forgiveness or the allure of bad boys, but while there's a decent amount of cleverness in his lines, the story never amounts to anything of significant consequence. Director Lynne Meadow's production is fine and neither she nor her actors should be blamed for the overall sluggishness of the overwritten proceedings, but aside from Lavin, who deftly blends from acerbic to gently sentimental, OUR MOTHER'S BRIEF AFFAIR is hardly one to remember.
Not even the sainted Linda Lavin can save the deeply unpleasant character she plays in "Our Mother's Brief Affair," a lazy play by Richard Greenberg...Stubbornly lacking in dramatic tension, the uneventful narrative features a mean-spirited woman who may or may not be on her deathbed, recounting a closely held secret to her disagreeable grown children. There's little to fault in the attractively mounted and very well cast production...Lavin's keen acerbic wit is wasted...on a character like Anna, who is, truth to tell, a sour woman with bitter views of everyone but herself.
Stage and screen actress Linda Lavin, 78, who has made a specialty out of playing difficult and domineering Jewish mothers (most recently in the 2012 play "The Lyons"), is at it again in Richard Greenberg's underwhelming dramatic comedy "Our Mother's Brief Affair"...The play has witty lines and a few surprises, but it's also sluggish, messy and short on plot. Greenberg's attempts to play with time and dramatic structure...come off as labored. Meadow's staging is generally flat. Lavin, nailing her character's acerbity, is terrifically funny but also identifiable and sympathetic. Keller and Arrington, in underwritten and underwhelming roles, passively sit on the sidelines while Lavin tells the tale.
The play's switcheroo invites deep thoughts, such as, "What was that all about?" My wild guess is Greenberg started writing two different plays that weren't going anywhere, and decided to weld them together. Just for the heck of it.
It takes some doing to stifle the prickly humor of Linda Lavin, but Our Mother's Brief Affair makes her character both an unreliable narrator and one who's astringent to the point of unpleasantness...A madly overworked but underdeveloped little piece, it mistakes narration for dramatization, and verbiage for genuine feeling...Greenberg has reached for the elusive links between past, present and future before, in richer and more compelling ways. And while Meadow's actors are all quite accomplished, they struggle to find any heart in characters so unrelentingly "written" that it sucks the life out of them, giving us no reason to care.
No one does difficult moms like Linda Lavin...With signature style, wry wit and an irresistible glint in her eye, Lavin makes Anna Cantor, "an average situational liar," as she's called, a force to be reckoned with. Lavin can do that in her sleep. Even so, the play is a snooze...Greenberg writes sharp and smart dialogue. Lynne Meadow is an efficient director. The cast is fine, but can only do so much with a script that is undercooked and overwritten at the same time...The notion of how much we can ever truly know people in our lives is worth exploring. Who was she, indeed? But the question "Brief Affair" leaves you with is "What was that?" Ultimately, not enough to satisfy.
Unfocused, anemic and astonishingly trivial, this drama of family and memory has somehow found its way to Manhattan Theatre Club's Broadway berth...Some of this is Greenberg's way. He doesn't really do melodrama and many of his better plays -- like The American Plan -- avoid direct conflict and sidestep escalation...But here he seems to skirt any drama at all, even as he and the director Lynne Meadow try to elevate anticlimaxes into crescendos. The acting is patently pleasant and sometimes a little better than that. Lavin is playful as ever, always testing and teasing her children, essentially a defanged version of the role she played in The Lyons.