Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Broadway: Wit

photo credit: Joan Marcus
MTC at the Friedman Theater

written by Margaret Edson

directed by Lynne Meadow

January 27, 2012

Cynthia Nixon sheds the glamour of her
Sex and the City fame in her latest Broadway appearance. For the sharp, gripping revival of Wit, Nixon has shaved her hair clean off—scalp, eyebrows, and all—and her sole costume is a hospital gown that shows off not svelte calves capped by Manolos but spindly legs and bare feet. Nixon has spent most of the last decade-plus onstage in safe, middlebrow respectability, epitomized by her Rabbit Hole turn as a grieving mother, a role that was pure award bait (it won her the '05 Tony and Nicole Kidman an Oscar nomination in '10). Wit, with its cancer-battle plot, would seem to be more of the same. But Nixon and director Lynne Meadow prove that Margaret Edson's drama deserves its Pulitzer; the show, in turn, pushes them to find new vigor, intelligence, and boldness in themselves

In treating a woman dying of cancer,
Wit refuses to fall back on the emotional safety of melodrama. The central role lets a middle-aged actress display dry humor, rigorous intellect, and the independence of a woman who's foregone a family for her career and excelled without apology. Nixon relishes the part. Maybe it's out of respect for the subject, but she avoids probing the character's emotional wounds (her usual approach to stagework) until the play's final scenes, when the displays of feeling have been earned. Meadow also refrains from her typically maximal style of direction: instead, she presents a black stage with a few skeletally white pillars, an absence of sound effects, and a finely clipped pace. This last quality, plus the work's intellectual rigor, makes the 100-minute, intermissionless drama neither exhausting nor brooding. Wit confronts the fact of human suffering with strength and proves itself a substantial drama.


plays at the Friedman Theater, closing on March 11. Tickets?

No comments: