Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Carol Mulroney"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

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note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Carl A. Rossi


by Stephen Belber
directed by Lisa Peterson

Carol Mulroney … Ana Reeder
Hutton Mulroney … Larry Pine
Ken Parker … Reuben Jackson
Joan … Johanna Day
Lesley … Tim Ransom

Have you ever attended a play that seemed merely “nice” as it unfolded but on later reflection blossomed into something quite good? That is Stephen Belber’s CAROL MULRONEY which is receiving its world premiere through the Huntington Theatre Company. Mr. Belber subtly, deftly, tells of a young woman, inexplicably sad, who either falls or jumps off her building’s roof and the dovetailing episodes that lead up to her demise; rather than being morbid, CAROL MULRONEY recalls the bittersweet humor and poetry of Mr. Williams’ THE GLASS MENAGERIE --- Carol Mulroney is akin to Laura Wingfield, gradually withdrawing from the world; her husband Lesley is more of a concerned older brother to her than spouse; Ken, an African-American colleague and friend, suddenly becomes her Gentleman Caller; and Hutton, Carol’s well-meaning but dysfunctional father, could be the absent Mr. Wingfield after Amanda had quit the scene in his place. Mr. Belber keeps his heroine ambiguous enough in her motivations --- was Carol always sad or has she started to brood upon learning that her mother’s drowning was really a suicide, having found her farewell note that simply reads, “NO”?. The husband and suitor are conventionally drawn but Mr. Belber creates two memorable portraits in Hutton, still smoking pot well into middle-age, and Joan, Carol’s rival-friend, one of those jittery, messed-up women who can be found dashing through the art-house world, a would-be earth mother lacking in roots.

Happily, the Huntington production plays out on its smaller Pavilion stage rather than inside its B. U. barn; director Lisa Peterson gently lets the chamber-action unfold against Alexander V. Nichol’s Christmas tree skies which, not surprisingly, point the way to a transcendent conclusion. Ana Reeder’s Carol is more apathetic than sad about her fate which leaves a grey hole in the play’s center, Tim Ransom and Reuben Jackson are attractive and likeable as Lesley and Ken, and Johanna Day is simply amazing as Joan, beautifully balancing the funny and pathetic sides of her character. Best of all is Larry Pine as Hutton --- I first (and last) saw Mr. Pine this past January in the Merrimack’s one-man adaptation of THE KREUTZER SONATA where he failed to plumb Mr. Tolstoy’s gloomy depths; Mr. Pine remains a handsome, laconic man and his dry, crackling voice is still the same but now he tucks into his current plum and makes marvelous amends --- if he wasn’t suited for a Russian sonata, he is quite at home in Mr. Belber’s jazz ensemble.

"Carol Mulroney" (14 October-20 November)
Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 266-0800

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide