Ms. Falco is very definitely the star of this show, though her soft-spoken performance as Bananas Shaughnessy is anything but a star-turn: It is, rather, a still point of realism in the midst of mounting frenzy. Mr. Stiller, who played Artie's son in the last Broadway revival, is powerfully affecting as Artie this time around, while Ms. Leigh is crude, rude and shrill in exactly the right proportions.
The House of Blue Leaves on Broadway Reviews
Reviews of The House of Blue Leaves on Broadway. See what all the critics had and read all the reviews for The House of Blue Leaves including the New York Times and More...
From: Associated Press | By: Mark Kennedy | Date: 04/26/2011
In the midst of the galloping nuns, bomb plots, shouting, love triangles and general craziness, Bananas Shaughnessy, played by a brilliant Edie Falco, emerges as the most poignant, most grounded character in a cracked universe...Stiller makes Artie's darkness and naked hunger seem almost understandable. He also beautifully captures the push-pull of a man still in love with his wife and yet pinning for a new, free affair.
From: Variety | By: Marilyn Stasio | Date: 04/25/2011
David Cromer knows the secret to a good revival: Keep it faithful and don't comment from on high. Stiller is so personally appealing, so comically desperate, and so oblivious to the absurdity of his ambitions that he makes the character of Artie almost likeable...[Falco] finds comedy in the goofy hat and gaga grin that Bananas slaps on to greet visitors, and tragedy in her memories of the feeling person she once was. What floors us is Falco's ability to play both comedy and tragedy in the same breath.
From: New York Post | By: Elisabeth Vincentelli | Date: 04/25/2011
But Stiller, who can't entirely dim his natural charisma, doesn't quite convince as a sad sack caught between hope and despondency. We buy Artie's attraction to the toxic Bunny, but not the complex feelings for Bananas that make his final gesture tragic rather than merely dramatic...Together, these characters make up Broadway's most oddball gallery, flailing in a hot mess of a play. But you can't get them out of your head, and that counts for a lot.
From: The Hollywood Reporter | By: David Rooney | Date: 04/25/2011
It's impossible to ignore the nagging evidence that this is not a great match of director and material...The production frequently sings, particularly in some brilliant monologues, yet it cries out overall for a lighter touch. Bottom Line - David Cromer's production overplays the melancholy and under-serves the humor, but the enduring originality of John Guare's breakthrough play prevails.
From: Village Voice | By: Alexis Soloski | Date: 04/27/2011
None of the central performances is quite as fully realized as you might wish—Stiller, for example, captures the “dreaming boy” aspect of Artie, but not the loathing that drives him. Yet together they somehow harmonize, ably conveying Guare’s gentle, genial take on the pathos of unremarkable, everyday lives. “The famous ones,” sighs Bunny, “they’re the real people. We’re the creatures of their dreams.” But it’s these sad dreams that Cromer spends his waking life imagining.
From: Entertainment Weekly | By: Thom Geier | Date: 04/27/2011
The unevenness of Cromer's direction is most pronounced in the first act, which is dominated by Artie, Bananas, and Bunny. The second act perks to life with the introduction with a farcical fleet of new characters, many of them played by scene-stealing stand-outs: relative newcomer Christopher Abbott as the Shaughnessys' increasingly deranged Vietnam-bound son, Ronnie (the role Stiller once played); Alison Pill (Milk) as the delightfully daffy deaf actress Corrinna Stroller, a vision in a white dress; and Thomas Sadoski (reasons to be pretty) as the neighborhood boy-turned-Hollywood hot shot whose coattails Artie unrealistically hopes to ride to fame. Yet overall, this production of The House of Blue Leaves is not unlike one of Artie's wannabe hit tunes: The notes are there, and the enthusiasm, but it never quite finds its rhythm.
From: New York Magazine | By: Scott Brown | Date: 04/26/2011
A bunker mentality pervades director David Cromer’s muffled new production of The House of Blue Leaves, and it’s not just because scenic artist Scott Pask’s grim vision of Vietnam-era Jackson Heights looks disturbingly like a duplex in Terror Era Kabul. This latest remount of John Guare’s satiric late-sixties philippic against the twin forces of fame and power — and the squalidly “aspirational” peasantry that both sustains and is sustained by those forces — feels strangely hunkered down in itself, even as geysers of absurdity (a trio of ravenous nuns, a gift-wrapped bomb intended for the visiting Pope) erupt willy-nilly in the dingy Queens living room of aspiring songwriter/discontented zookeeper Artie Shaughnessy (Ben Stiller). Like its principal characters, House feels, for all its determination, caged in its own dreamworld.
From: Newsday | By: Linda Winer | Date: 04/25/2011
Whatever we think we know about the absurdity of modern celebrity, forget it. Believe me, John Guare saw it first and said it better. As early as "The House of Blue Leaves," circa 1970, the playwright nailed people's desperate hunger to be famous, or at least chummy with the famous, and made it all as wretched and laughable as anything curdling our culture today.
From: am New York | By: Matt Windman | Date: 04/25/2011
Although Guare's play remains quite funny, Cromer downplays most of its humor to ill effect. Stiller gives a surprisingly flat performance that stresses only Artie's anger and frustration. Leigh is miscast and totally unfunny as Bunny...Falco delivers a moving performance, capturing Banana's paranoia over being sent away to a mental asylum or being force-fed pills.
From: Bloomberg News | By: Jeremy Gerard | Date: 04/25/2011
Stiller needs more time to get a purchase on the role. Jennifer Jason Leigh is archly convincing as Bunny, dressed a la Jackie Kennedy, in David Cromer's sensitive x-ray of a production. It's Edie Falco who will steal your heart as Bananas...Gaunt, stringy and practically translucent, she's so emotionally open that it may be all you can do to keep from running onstage to wraps your arms around her.
From: Chicago Tribune | By: Chris Jones | Date: 04/25/2011
It sometimes feels like Cromer and his fine actors are searching for a core that the play already has considered and dismissed....of the three central characters, only Falco doesn't have this problem, partly because she plays the darkest and most passive character, but also because a soft vulnerability constantly lurks around the eyes of this remarkable actress; America has yet to scratch the surface of what she can do.
From: New Jersey Newsroom | By: Michael Sommers | Date: 04/26/2011
Newcomers to “The House of Blue Leaves” are unlikely to see beyond Cromer’s misguided staging to appreciate the play itself while people who know and love it are advised to skip this unworthy occasion.
From: New York Daily News | By: Joe Dziemianowicz | Date: 04/26/2011
There's never a dull moment in director David Cromer's entertaining staging, but that's not the same as being completely satisfying. A wild and crazy work cries out for extremes, and this starry production at the Walter Kerr is too tame and emotionally mellow for its own good. Stiller, who played Ronnie in its 1986 Broadway run, gets to show talents he doesn't typically display on film. He plays piano and sings impressively while crooning his character's cornball tunes.
From: Time Out New York | By: David Cote | Date: 04/26/2011
Those happy and sad masks are iconic for a reason: A director who wants to put a fresh spin on a familiar play need only fiddle with the comedy-tragedy equalizer knob. Such adjustments get you a Long Day’s Journey Into Night that taps undiscovered veins of goofiness, or a revival of The Man Who Came to Dinner that chronicles lives of quiet Midwestern desperation. John Guare’s 1971 classic, The House of Blue Leaves, isn’t so easy to flip. Guare’s black farce about nobodies dying to be somebodies tickles your funny bone before kicking you in the gut. So it’s only natural that David Cromer, whose gimlet-eyed earnestness led to revelatory stagings of Our Town and Brighton Beach Memoirs, should see how high he could pump the grim factor. The result is an overly dour production that gets Guare’s bitter ironies but none of his naughtiness or joy.
New Drama 'Jerusalem' Thrills, but Revivals 'House of Blue Leaves' and 'Born Yesterday' Need Reviving
From: New York Observer | By: Jesse Oxfeld | Date: 04/26/2011
Yet in 2011, after Real Worlds and Real Housewives, after three decades of media-star pontiffs, Blue Leaves feels very much like an artifact of the late 1960s. At a time when some of its key surrealism is commonplace, Blue Leaves' other antic bits of wackiness—a fatal bombing played for laughs; hearing aids confused for pills—are still funny but land less effectively. The farcical elements don't build up the comedy of ridiculous premises; they instead rub awkwardly against the entirely reasonable.
From: New York Times | By: Ben Brantley | Date: 04/25/2011
As directed by David Cromer - and enacted by a talent-stuffed cast that includes Ben Stiller, Jennifer Jason Leigh and the remarkable Edie Falco - this production zooms in on every gritty grain of pain to be found in Guare's breakthrough work from 1966. Within the dimness, there is one luminous force. And that is Falco, whose varied, nuanced acting has long been familiar to television viewers in shows that include "The Sopranos" and "Nurse Jackie"...When the world is as dark as it is in this "House," your eyes naturally seek the light, whatever its source.
From: ScheckOnTheater | By: Frank Scheck | Date: 04/26/2011
In his revelatory production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, director David Cromer unearthed the darkness underlying a play that is usually presented as a paean to a more innocent America. He applies the same approach to the new Broadway revival of John Guare’s 1966 absurdist comedy The House of Blue Leaves, but with vastly diminished results. The production captures the desperation and pathos of the play’s troubled characters, but at the cost of the play’s humor.
From: Backstage | By: David Sheward | Date: 04/25/2011
Sometimes the current hot director is not the best choice for a big Broadway revival with star names. David Cromer scored an Off-Broadway hit with a naturalistic staging of "Our Town," and though it had a short run, his Broadway production of "Brighton Beach Memoirs" bravely forsook punching the punch lines to emphasize the strong family connection among Neil Simon's sad-funny Jeromes. The producers of the current revival of John Guare's 1971 "The House of Blue Leaves" must have taken a look at Cromer's résumé and figured he'd be perfect for this sad-funny portrait of shattered ambitions and celebrity worship. Unfortunately, director and play are not a perfect fit. Cromer's kitchen-sink approach doesn't work for Guare's zany dreamers, who are simultaneously nobodies and larger than life.