Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Talking Heads"

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note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Beverly Creasey

"Heads" Up for QE2:
A Tour de Force

Reviewed by Beverly Creasey

You’d be hard pressed to find a funnier or for that matter, a more elegant playwright than Alan Bennett: What he can do with words. And what QE2 can do with a few sticks of furniture and some lighting. TALKING HEADS 2 opened this weekend and continues through the coming week. Do not miss it. Two of Bennett’s three monologues will have you in stitches. The third will take your breath away. (You may have seen the BBC teleplays on PBS and most memorably, Maggie Smith as a lonely vicar’s wife in TALKING HEADS 1. TALKING HEADS 2 is more of the same legerdemain, with each monologue conjuring up a cast of thousands in the imagination.)

Jennifer Jones is hilarious as the clueless Miss Fozzard in the delicious first monologue about a gal and her chiropodist. Anyone who’s been to a foot doctor knows they’re a breed apart. I went regularly in my dancing days to a charming, but most peculiar old doc who specialized in ballet dancers. Bennett knows whereof he writes. His doc revels, one might even say he looses himself in “the mysteries of the metatarsal arch.” Jones is simply priceless as the smitten but reserved department store clerk with fallen arches who learns the real meaning of “footloose and fancy free.”

McNeely Myers is triumphant in the second monologue as a snobby antiques dealer who gets her comeuppance in spades. Myers’ character professes an “eye for beautiful things” and although she would be horrified to have this said about her, would fit right in with the women in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol who can’t wait to get their hands on Scrooge’s embroidered night shirt. This lady is much grander, to be sure, but just as ruthless. She thinks she’s too quick-witted to have the wool pulled over her eyes…but Bennett does just that and Myers, extraordinary comedienne that she is, looks totally surprised.

The last monologue is darkly disturbing. Nicole Jesson is chilling as the unknowing (perhaps not wanting to know) wife of a brute. He works in an abattoir but that doesn’t entirely explain the blood on his hands. Jesson manages to get under the woman’s skin, to show us how someone might not be aware of what is all around her. Bennett takes us into this horrifying marriage but he doesn’t altogether banish laughter. Mind you, the humor is pretty grim but amusing all the same, like the image of mothers all over the township turning in their sons to the police. Bennett’s fun is wicked and he does it so well. You won’t see better acting anywhere in town. Kudos to director Michael O’Halloran and to QE2 for bringing us more Bennett. Keep ‘em coming.

"Talking Heads" (17 - 26 March)
Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide