BWW Review: GREY GARDENS at Manatee Performing Arts Center
In a world of musical theatre shows you probably have never heard of it, Manatee Performing Arts Center presents "Grey Gardens." Based on the 1975 documentary of the same name, the story portrays the life of Edie and her mother Edith Bouvier Beale.
The story is a tale of two acts. In the beginning of the show we see the glitz and glamour that existed for Socialite Edith Beale (Michelle Anaya) as she navigates the troubled life she attempts to keep hidden. Edith's every move is calculated as she plans out her daughter Edie's (Amy Woerner) engagement party. Edith must maintain her place in society at all costs and she manipulates everything in her life to maintain her elitist status.
Act two offers us a stark contrast as Edith's life has obviously not played out as planned. The house is trashed, full of hoarded items that won't be thrown out as everything in that house is a reminder of what was. Elegant dinners have turned into meals of soup and cat food. Edith, now played by Terri Balash is battling with the deterioration of her mind and Edie, now played by Anaya, struggles with the unfulfillment of her dreams and the battle to break free from "Grey Gardens" versus the need to care for her aging mother.
Anaya is tasked with depicting the same character in two very different points in her life. Her presence on stage is strong in Act I. She emotes all the characteristics of a woman in control and on the brink of disaster even if she does not know it is coming. Her representation of Edith later in life was even more compelling. The anguish on her face and deep desire to be free from the bondage of her conditions was felt by every member of the audience. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of that passion in her younger self, I just did not realize I needed it until the impressive Act two transformation. The complexity of the role and Anaya's portrayal of the characters was simply magnificent.
While Balash's role is primarily in the second act, she is amazing as she gives us even a tiny glimpse into the life of a woman whose mental state is quickly declining. It can be a lot of fun to play "crazy" but Balash does it in such a masterful way. You ache as you watch the continual decline of this once vibrant woman. The connection and intensity between Balash and Anaya was a very realistic visualization of the struggles families face when they come to a similar crossroads in their lives.
Director Cory Woomert also serves as the understudy for Gould, a friend to Edith and pianist of the household. On this night, Woomert was on stage and provided a perfect depiction of high society while at the same time providing us an outsider's view of this eccentric family. As someone who has played a role in a show where I was also the Director, it was commendable to watch Woomert and the bond he had established with his cast. I am confident that everyone witnessed a true realization of the Director's vision for the role. Woomert was a perfect complement to the cast of characters he helped bring to life.
Alex Zickafoose who played both Joseph P. Kennedy Jr and Jerry lights up a stage and added some much need humor to a show you knew was going to go down a dark path. Amy Woerner as Young Little Eddie was carefree and full of hope and Brad Barbaro as Major Bouvier/Norman Vincent Peale, Timarus Foulks as Brooks, and Bridget Marsh and Sophia Cavalluzzi as the Young Jackie and Lee Bouvier provided precision at every turn in their supporting roles and helped to further enhance the characters around them.
"Grey Gardens" is not a sit back and relax type of show. It requires attention to detail and an open mind to truly understand the depth with which this talented cast brings these dynamic characters to life. "Grey Gardens" may be a musical you have never heard of but that just adds to the satisfaction you will have when it turns into a show that becomes a part of you.
Grey Gardens" runs through September 22. More information can be found at www.manateeperformingartscenter.com.
Photo Credit: Mike Fults