“The Commons of Pensacola” starring Blythe Danner and Sarah Jessica Parker

“The Commons of Pensacola” starring Blythe Danner and Sarah Jessica Parker

To celebrate my husband Michael’s birthday, we saw the terrific new play by Amanda Peet – “The Commons of Pensacola”  – starring Blythe Danner and Sarah Jessica Parker at the Manhattan Theatre Club.

My one word review would be “GO!”

Artfully crafted, this stunning debut play by Amanda Peet is deceptively complex.  Based loosely around the “idea” of what Bernie Madoff’s family may have experienced after he stole billions from investors, this play isn’t about the money but the dynamic of betrayal in a family stuck in dysfunction.

Blythe Danner is, not surprisingly, fantastic in the role of mother
“Judith.” Blythe’s talent never disappoints.  Like all of her work, her
performance was layered with charm, nuance, an informing sense of physicality,
intelligence and an innate vulnerability.

And Sarah Jessica Parker brings both light and dark to the
role of “Becca.”  She is both penetrating and poignant as she questions the family around her. The entire cast is very strong, handling the delicate material
beautifully.

At one point, four of the lead characters find themselves in the same room facing betrayal – but four different betrayals.  Director Lynne Meadow guides the play with a deft hand, unfolding the story in a manner that begins light-hearted and soon comes to bear on the drama underneath.

Excellent work was also on display by lighting designer by Jason Lyons, whose design was sensitive and fluid.

We were lucky that an audience “talk-back” was scheduled after the performance, so we stayed and listened to the cast elaborate on their own approach to the material and questions by the audience on their thoughts and opinions.  Really insightful and interesting to hear both sides of a “theater equation” takes away from the experience.

I was fortunate to work with Blythe in the first Broadway revival of
Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies” in 2001.  I was already a big fan of her
work, and loved watching her Tony Award nominated performance up close. 
We’ve stayed in touch over the years and I knew I couldn’t miss this
performance. 

Afterward, Blythe was great to take a few minutes (on a two show day already!) to chat and wish Michael ‘happy birthday.’ 

The play is only scheduled to run through January 26, 2014.  Considering the excellent reviews and the strong box office, I’m hoping the play moves to Broadway for an open-ended run.  The cast, director, playwright and story all deserve to be seen.

GO!

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“The Commons of Pensacola” starring Blythe Danner and Sarah Jessica Parker
Blythe Danner (far left) speaks at a “talkback” with the cast (Sarah Jessica Parker 2nd from right) and audience of “The Commons of Pensacola”

“The Commons of Pensacola” starring Blythe Danner and Sarah Jessica Parker
With Blythe Danner after her performance in “The Commons of Pensacola”

“The Commons of Pensacola” starring Blythe Danner and Sarah Jessica Parker
Michael, Blythe Danner and I backstage after her performance in “The Commons of Pensacola”