Main | Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Property Known As Garland

Last night I attended a preview performance of The Property Known As Garland, starring Adrienne Barbeau. My companion for the evening was fellow blogger David, of Someone In A Tree, and he and I both nearly gasped at how amazing the 61 year old Barbeau looks. If she's had work done, it was very, very good.

The premise of the play is that it's the final night of Garland's last European tour, and we are backstage at what would prove to be her final public performace in Copenhagen. Barbeau told Playbill: "It's a two-character play. It takes place backstage the night of what turned out to be [Garland's] last performance at the Falkoner Center. She's getting ready to go on, and the young stage manager keeps coming in to try and make sure she's ready to go on. She's hesitant and starts telling stories to postpone having to go onstage, and it's a very witty play. It's sort of a love letter to her I think — a tribute to her, to her spirit and her survival instincts and her wit."

Althought there is a second character, essentially this is a one-woman show, a series of show biz stories from Garland's life, told directly to the audience with with numerous audio flashbacks, in which the stage lights dimmed, a spotlight shone on Barbeau, and we heard an offstage voice from Garland's past (her mother, Louis B. Mayer, etc) Both David and I found this device rather gimmicky and tiresome after the first, say... 300 times they did it.

David and I also agreed that Barbeau's performance was near flawless, despite the not-so-great writing. It's a demanding role, Barbeau shoulders 95% of the dialogue and is on stage for the entire 80 minutes (no intermission) of the show. The Property Known As Garland was written by Barbeau's husband, Billy Van Zandt, but I'd have to say that in this case, nepotism was a good thing. Barbeau didn't attempt to do a drag performance of Garland, which we appreciated. She physically resembles Garland at that age, and as David put it, the performance was an "evocation, not an impersonation."

Incidentally, The Property Known As Garland features no music other than that can be heard drifting backstage from Garland's opening act, and some recorded audio moments. Previews continue for another few days and The Property Known As Garland officially opens on March 23rd. The Actors Playhouse is in the West Village at 100 South Seventh Avenue. Get tickets here.

Just by coincidence, I happened to catch Barbeau on cable in Creepshow, right before leaving for the theatre. Of course, aside from being Bea Arthur's daughter Carol, on the TV's famed Maude, you may know Barbeau best from campy horror flick, The Fog. Don't go into the fog! But do go see Barbeau as Garland. And that, gentle readers, may be the gayest advice you get this week.

UPDATE: I neglected to directly link David's review, which is here.

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